Deasia Watkins pleads guilty to murder, decapitating her infant daughter

Posted at 11:04 AM, Feb 23, 2017

CINCINNATI -- Her lawyers called the crime “gruesome” and “horrific.” The prosecutor called it “an unbelievable act.”

One of the worst murder cases in Tri-State history came to a dramatic close Thursday when a sobbing Deasia Watkins pleaded guilty in the decapitation death of her baby daughter Janiyah.

“I loved her, regardless of what anybody say," Watkins, now 22, said in court.

The 2015 crime will haunt the veteran attorneys who handled the case.

According to Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco's report, the infant sustained multiple stab wounds to the right side of her face and head, and her “head was severed from her body." When asked how many stab wounds Janiyah sustained, Sammarco said she'd "lost count."

“It was very gruesome, a very emotional situation,” defense attorney Perry Ancona said. “Emotional for the family that was here, emotional for her, it's just devastating."

“This is one of the most grotesque crime scenes I've seen in the 30 years I've been assistant prosecutor,” said David Prem. “It's an unbelievable act."

Watkins rejected a plea deal last November. She wanted to go to trial with an insanity plea.

However, her  attorneys, Ancona and Norm Aubin, said there were conflicting reports from doctors on whether she had a mental illness..

 “There was an enormous amount of evidence that demonstrated the defendant appreciated the wrongfulness of her conduct," prosecutor Prem said.

Both attorneys, though, are hopeful for Watkins' future.

 She was sentenced to 15 years to life. With credit for time served, she will be eligible for parole in 13 years. 

IN-DEPTH: Who is Deasia Watkins? Documents reveal troubled childhood

When the trial began April 2015, a judge ordered that Watkins undergo treatment and postponed her next court date six months. She was found competent to stand trial in Sept. 2015.

During multiple court appearances, Watkins was seen exhibiting blank stares, with little discernible reaction to her surroundings. Watkins’ attorney argued that she has no idea what’s going on around her.

RELATED: Father of decapitated baby: "I'm lost right now."

When Janiyah was born, Watkins was placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold at Deaconess Hospital. Court records documenting Janiyah's case indicate it was around this time when Watkins was diagnosed with post-partum psychosis, a condition characterized by the onset of psychotic behavior following childbirth.

Doctors prescribed Watkins an antipsychotic medication called Risperdal as treatment, but it was unclear whether she was actually taking it.

VIDEO: Officials talk baby's 'disturbing' death

Cincinnati police said officers responded to the home of Watkins' aunt in the 5900 block of Waldway Lane and found the 3-month-old dead inside. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said the baby's body was found on the kitchen counter by a 5-year-old relative who was dropped off to wait for his bus to school. The knife used on the baby was found placed in the dead baby's hand.

"This is one of the most disturbing cases I've ever seen in my life," the prosecutor said.

Court records show the March incident wasn't the first time authorities visited Watkins. In fact, Janiyah was removed from Watkins' care due to neglect.

According to a Hamilton County Juvenile Court complaint, police were called to Watkins' apartment in Cheviot about three months before her daughter's death after complaints of screaming.

When officers arrived, they said Watkins was high on marijuana and "speaking in tongues," according to a police report. Officers said they had to forcefully remove the infant from Watkins' arms because she refused to let go.

After that, Janiyah was placed in the custody of Job & Family Services after a complaint filed by the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office.

Job & Family Services later placed the child with Watkins' aunt, who permitted Watkins to come and live with her one week prior to the infant's death, Deters said.

Deters said Job & Family Services workers "did their job." Social workers visited the home three days before Janiyah was killed.

"Bottom line: No one has the resources to monitor a mother and a neglected child 24-seven," Deters said.

COLUMN: 3-month old's tragic death has this mom wondering, 'who was there for the child?'