Teen set free
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December 17, 2013
Teen set free

Mischicha Peters was suffering from a sudden and transient disassociated state of mind when she snapped and placed a pillow over the face of her one-year-old son, killing him.{{more}}

“She broke under the emotional and financial strain that she had been under all her life.”

This was disclosed at the High Court yesterday by clinical psychologist Dr Anita Watson-Adams, moments before the 19-year-old former Girls’ High School student walked away from the court, with the year and four months spent on remand being recorded as her sentence.

Peters had pleaded guilty to manslaughter after initially being charged with the murder of McKealti Peters.

From the moment Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle told her she was free to go, Peters’ tears flowed freely, as she clenched her hands into fists and closed her eyes.

Members of Peters’ family, who waited patiently on the verdict outside the courthouse, embraced her – with Peter’s mother receiving the lion’s share of those hugs.

In an interview on November 22, 2013, Peters told the psychologist that on August 15, 2012, she went to Kingstown, then returned home to Arnos Vale. She then went back to town for a second time that same day to ask the child’s father, Anthony John, for money.

However, according to Peters, he accused her of being a thief and did not give her the money. Peters, not satisfied, took a piece of steel from the omnibus that John was working on and struck him.

Further in the interview, Peters recalled returning home and hearing her seven-year-old sister tell her that there was no food in the house.

Peters was asked what was going through her mind when her sister made the revelation to her and she replied: “I was mad with myself, because it had been like that for a while. Over a month, no food in the house, but rice. Mad at myself because I had promised myself that I would never bring a child into this world to suffer, so I blamed myself for my mistake.

“I was thinking that I did not want my son to suffer the way that I did. Maybe it would be easier if he died. Easier for everyone.”

Watson-Adams further stated that Peters recalled when she came from town, she sent her four younger siblings outside to play.

“She then closed the door, lifted her son, kissed him and told him that she loved him very much. She then put him to lie on two cushions on the floor and looked around, but she did not know why she was looking around,” Watson-Adams read from her interview with Peters.

“She saw a pillow which she put over his face. Ms Peters demonstrated what had occurred. She was stooping down with the pillow and McKealti’s face was towards her. She placed the pillow on his face lightly with her arms and fingers outstretched, holding it in place with no pressure or force exerted on it,” Watson-Adams continued.

When quizzed about the length of time she held the pillow over her son’s face, Peters said she did not know.

When asked what was happening around her when she held the pillow over his face, Peters replied “I do not know!”

Peters further stated that she did not see the baby kicking, nor did she hear any noises.

As the chilling details of Peters’ crime was being read out, persons gathered in the courtroom placed their hands over their mouths; some even began to cry.

Asked what was going through her mind when she was holding the pillow over the helpless child’s face, Peters replied: “My whole life was flashing before me.”

Watson-Adams said, at that point of the interview, Peters broke down and had long pauses in her responses.

Peters told Watson-Adams that she became aware of her surroundings again after her eight-year-old brother came into the house and hit her.

“She then got up and looked at him as he took up the baby and headed outside. She shouted at him to bring the baby back and she rested him (the baby) on the bed…,” Watson-Adams added.

She said Peters’ brother again took the baby, went on the porch and told persons in the area to call the police after his sister had just killed her son.

Peters then got dressed, left the house and sat at the side of the road. She was subsequently taken into police custody. It was stated that while at the police station, Peters, when told she had just killed her child, laughed hysterically.

“She told the police it can’t be true,” Watson-Adams stated.

Explaining the term “disassociation”, Watson-Adams said Peters was dazed beyond compare. She added that disassociation is a disruption of the functions of consciousness, memory, identity or perception of the environment.

“In this case, her consciousness, memory, identity and perception were disrupted… This disturbance was transient and sudden in her case… She was in and out of a dissociative state from the time she heard no food for the baby. She was moving and doing, but not consciously thinking. And her perception of life and the world were distorted,” Watson-Peters observed.

Realising that her baby had died Peters said when her relatives told her about the baby’s death, she did not believe, even after she was arrested. It was not until she saw the child’s photograph and funeral announcement in a local newspaper.

“On the day of the preliminary inquiry, I was hoping that the doctor would tell me how he died,” Peters stated.

Peters even stated that there are times when she expects someone to bring her baby to her.

During the time of her pregnancy, Peters made several unsuccessful attempts to abort the child. She even put the child up for adoption, while she continued to battle with financial difficulties. Peters recalled pondering on her life following the birth of her son, saying that she believed that she would not be able to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer.

Despite her setback, a pregnant, yet determined Peters still sat her school-leaving examinations and gained seven O’level passes.

“When I was growing up, I only had the opportunity to read books. But I did not read because I did not have time to do anything. I had to take care of my siblings. Now, I am not able to go to school because of my son and my mother couldn’t help me. I was looking for work, but I could not find any,” Peters said in her interview.

According to the report, Peters, who has had a troubled past, was physically and emotionally abused as a child and would even consume alcohol to cope with the stress she faced daily.

In her conclusion, Watson-Adams deemed that Peters has appropriate and cognitive social functioning, average intelligence and is of good mental health currently.

Counsel Ronald Marks, in mitigation, stated that the report of Watson-Adams and the social inquiry report done and read by case worker in the Ministry of National Mobilisation Jacqueline Howe, covered a lot of what he would have addressed the court on.

“In almost 15 years since I have been practising, this is one of the saddest stories I have ever heard and if I had to state what was said earlier, I might not have been able to hold my composure,” Marks said.