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Insane mom committed early

 | Published on 11/12/2010


A Redwood City mother found not guilty by reason of insanity of attempting to kill her daughter and assaulting her son was committed to a state mental hospital a month early to speed up her access to care.

Philomena Mary Brown, 50, was scheduled for a placement hearing in early December, but defense attorney Vince O’Malley moved the commitment up so she could be treated more quickly, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. 

Judge Lisa Novak ordered Brown to Napa State Hospital for a maximum term of 13 years which is the amount she faced in prison after pleading no contest to felony charges of attempted murder, causing great bodily injury and assault.

She can be released from care any point before that, beyond 180 days, if she is found returned to sanity. If she reaches the 13-year mark without such a designation, prosecutors can petition to extend her stay in two-year increments, Wagstaffe said.

Each extension requires a jury trial.

On Oct. 19, Brown pleaded no contest to the charges and was immediately found insane at the time of the crimes based on a trio of reports by court-appointed doctors. The negotiated settlement spared Brown trial on three counts of premeditated attempted murder — alongside child abuse charges — which could carry a life sentence.

Police arrested Brown June 21, several hours after receiving a call from a 13-year-old boy who said he and his 23-year-old sister were attacked with a dumbbell at the family’s home at 1010 Vera Ave. Later details showed that Brown’s husband of 26 years and the children were allegedly drugged the previous night by something she placed in their food.

Brown fled the house and was found by sheriff’s deputies later that afternoon at Pomponio State Beach where authorities believe she tried to kill herself with prescription medication and she was hospitalized before being medically cleared and taken to the women’s jail.

O’Malley has said his client suffered a mental breakdown in the weeks before the attack, believing people wanted to harm or even kill her family.

Brown has been in custody on no-bail status.