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Mother pleads innocent



Published: Fri, April 26, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The defendant will be examined by three experts to help a judge determine if she is competent to stand trial.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A 27-year-old Austintown woman facing capital murder charges has entered a plea of innocent by reason of insanity.

Anthony Consoldane of the Trumbull County Public Defender's Commission said his client, Sherry Delker, is suffering from a mental illness. He said she has been treated in the past for schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which a person has delusions and hallucinations.

Delker was indicted earlier this month on a charge of aggravated murder with a specification that the victim was under 13.

Police say Delker ran over her daughter, Samantha Martin, 6, on March 29. Delker is being held without bond in the county jail. Samantha's father lives in Warren, police said.

Consoldane said he has also filed a motion to find out if Delker is competent to stand trial.

Judge John Stuard of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court has ordered that Delker be examined by three experts to help him determine if she is competent.

Experts chosen

The defense, prosecution and the court have all chosen mental health experts who will examine Delker and then issue a report to the court. The defense has hired psychologist Dr. Douglas Darnall of Liberty; the prosecution selected Dr. Steve Zuchowski, a psychiatrist from Cleveland; and the court chose Dr. Stanley J. Palumbo, a psychologist from Youngstown.

Consoldane said it will take the experts about a month to interview Delker and then issue a report with the court.

"After the reports are filed with the court, then we will have a hearing and then the judge will decide if she is competent or not," Consoldane said.

To be competent, the defendant must understand the charges and be able to aid in defense.

About the case

Police said Samantha was killed around 8 a.m. on Prospect Street near state Route 46 in Mineral Ridge, next to St. Mary Church.

Scuff marks that could have been made when a body was dragged by a car were found on Prospect Street, and clothes were embedded in the pavement, according to an affidavit prosecutors filed with the court.

Crime lab officers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol also found a tire tread on Samantha's shirt that resembled the tread on Delker's front tires. Delker's vehicle is a black 1990 two-door Chevrolet Lumina.

Delker told police she went to the church to ask forgiveness after sending her daughter to a "better place," documents state.

The Mahoning County Coroner's office said an autopsy showed that Samantha, who died of multiple internal injuries, had been sexually abused. Mahoning County officials are investigating possible sex abuse. No charges have been filed.

Authorities in both counties are investigating because the girl and her mother lived in Austintown in Mahoning County, but the death happened in Trumbull County.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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