July 5, 2013

Auburn mother accused of killing 2-year-old daughter ‘upset’ after leaving hospital, attorney says

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

BANGOR — The lawyer for an Auburn woman charged with murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter said Friday that the young woman has not adjusted well to the transition from a hospital bed to a jail cell.

Leanna Norris, 24, pleaded not guilty to murder Friday morning in the death of Loh Grenda, who turned 2 in February.

"She is very upset," Bangor attorney Martha Harris said outside Penobscot Superior Court. "She was taken from her treatment facility into jail. She just went to jail on Wednesday."

Harris would not say what Norris was being treated for, and police have said only that she was being treated at a Rockport medical facility.

"I don't think anybody likes being in custody, and she's never been in jail before," Harris said. "And to go from a hospital setting into jail is very upsetting."

Harris said it is still uncertain how the child died.

"There's still an ongoing investigation into the cause of death," Harris said. "So they're not even sure of that."

No additional details about the case were contained in an indictment document filed with the court.

Judge Ann Murray said no police affidavit of probable cause will be filed with the court; Norris was arrested based on an indictment from the grand jury, and those deliberations were secret.

Andrew Benson, an assistant attorney general prosecuting the case, said he expects defense attorney Harris to file a motion for a mental examination of Norris.

Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport offers mental health and psychiatric services, according to the hospital's website. The hospital's Psychiatric and Addiction Recovery Center is an acute inpatient psychiatric and medical detoxification treatment facility. It is a locked 18-bed unit. Patients are treated voluntarily and involuntarily.

Other mental health and psychiatric programs and services are offered in collaboration with Mid-Coast Mental Health Center, with offices in nearby Rockland and Belfast.

Benson would not say whether police had a search warrant for Norris' car, whether police had permission to enter the vehicle or how officers were alerted to the car where the toddler's body was found.

He would not answer additional questions about the case.

Norris, who entered the courtroom Friday dressed in a lime-green-and-black concert T-shirt, faded jeans and orange sneakers, was ordered held without bail pending her next court hearing.

The toddler's body was found in her mother's car in Stetson early on the morning of June 24. Police said they think the death may have occurred hours earlier, late at night on June 23, in neighboring Newport.

Loh Grenda was declared dead after police responded to a call at her grandparents' home on Mount Pleasant Road in Stetson about 3 a.m. June 24.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has not yet determined the manner of the child's death, but it has said it was a homicide.

The toddler's father, Michael Grenda, of Auburn, could not be reached for comment Friday. Grenda's mother, Patti Grenda, Loh Grenda's grandmother, declined to speak to a reporter when contacted by phone Friday.

Norris was arrested Wednesday by detectives with the north division of the Major Crimes Unit of Maine State Police.

The arrest followed an indictment returned by a Penobscot County grand jury. The indictment states that Norris is charged with knowing or intentional murder.

In a statement released June 25, police said Norris had been hospitalized after Loh's death.

Harris, who was appointed by the court Friday to represent Norris, said she hopes that Norris's treatment will continue in jail, where she is being held without bail pending a hearing due to take place within the next 90 days.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
dharlow@centralmaine.com

 

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