Mom accused of poisoning kids found not guilty by insanity

Lorita Aiken, photo courtesy Virginia Beach Police.

UPDATE: On Jan. 4, 2017, Lorita Aiken had an annual review, in which Aiken agreed with the hospital’s recommendation for re-commitment. Aiken has another review scheduled for Jan. 8, 2018.

UPDATE: On Jan. 6, 2016, Circuit Court Judge Les Lilley ruled defendant Lorita Aiken will remain committed to the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach woman accused of trying to poison her children to death by crushing up medication and putting it in applesauce and ice cream has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

On Thursday, Judge Les Lilley found Lorita Aiken not guilty and ordered she be admitted to the state mental health system. He said it was one of the most difficult cases he’s worked on and one that “just makes you want to cry.” Lilley said he had to look at the totality of the circumstances in making his decision.

“I really don’t have the words, but I just give thanks to God. We prayed so much for this day to come, and I’m just grateful,” said Aiken’s mother, Anelia Sutton, as she fought back tears after the judge’s decision.

In November 2013, Aiken was accused of putting medication in her children’s food in an attempt to kill them. Police said Aiken left a suicide note that read, “You will never hurt me or my children ever again!” Her husband came home and found all three unconscious. The children survived the incident.

In February, Aiken pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on two counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of adulteration of food/drug/etc. with the intent to injure or kill. Prosecutors and defense attorneys did not dispute she tried to kill her children, but argued over why.

In court Wednesday, the prosecution argued Aiken was not insane and had a court-appointed forensic psychologist testify. He had visited with Aiken after her arrest and said she was able to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the murder. However, a clinical psychologist hired by Aiken’s family testified he believes she was insane at the time of the incident.

Aiken’s mother, Sutton, told WAVY News that there was no doubt her daughter was insane at the time.

“That’s hard for me to even have to face or have to admit, because the child I gave birth to and raised and knew her to be as a woman, I did not recognize her for months,” Sutton said.

Aiken’s children have been staying with Sutton.

Aiken’s lawyer, Annette Miller, said Aiken will be evaluated by a psychiatrist and psychologist to determine if she needs inpatient hospitalization. She could spend several months in a state hospital before a judge determines she can be released, Miller said.

“I’m very grateful for Lorita because I believe she will get the help she needs in the state hospital system,” Miller said.

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