AUGUSTA – A woman who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when she starved her 5-year-old daughter to death in 1993 asked a judge Friday to discharge her from state custody.

Tonia Kigas Porter has lived in her own apartment in Augusta, unsupervised other than monthly visits with mental health workers, since 2010. Before that, she had lived in a supervised apartment since 2003.

She has worked well with her treatment team, is painfully aware of what she did to her daughter and is committed to taking her medication so nothing like that happens again, said Ann LeBlanc, a psychologist and director of the State Forensic Service.

Also, Porter has friends and has volunteered extensively in the community for nearly 10 years and would not present an increased risk to the community if she were discharged, LeBlanc said.

During a hearing before Justice Michaela Murphy in Kennebec County Superior Court, LeBlanc said she could not guarantee that Porter would keep taking her medication or seeing a psychologist.

“Ms. Porter has demonstrated almost classic, ideal progression,” LeBlanc said. “She’s been absolutely reliable about taking her medication. She’s very clear about her role in the loss of her daughter. It’s something that is very painful, that she is very aware of and would not want to repeat. Ms. Porter has demonstrated she will take her medications.”

But, LeBlanc conceded, “I can’t guarantee that.”

Murphy said she would take the case under advisement and then issue a written decision as soon as she could on whether to discharge Porter from state custody.

Her daughter, Tavielle Kigas, starved to death in their apartment in Bangor after Porter withheld food and water from her for almost six weeks, according to newspaper accounts.

Porter told police at the time that she believed her daughter was evil. She was committed to state custody after a finding in Penobscot County Superior Court in 1995 that she was “not criminally responsible by reason of mental disease or defect of the offense of murder.”

Porter has been moving toward discharge in a series of small steps since she was committed, moving from the state’s Riverview Psychiatric Center to a supervised apartment and to her current apartment, where she lives on her own.

Laura Yustak Smith, a state assistant attorney general, agreed Friday that Porter has made remarkable progress over the last 19 years and doesn’t appear to be a physical threat to the community or herself.

However, Smith expressed concern that Porter recently decided to stop volunteering with the Bread of Life Soup Kitchen, where she has volunteered for nearly 10 years, and instead do unpaid work for a friend’s cleaning business.

On the witness stand, Porter said she had been working at the soup kitchen, helping to cook, serve and clean for so long that she felt it was time to try something else.

Asked how important she thought it is for her to take her medication, Porter answered, “very important.”

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

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