A Fairfax County woman accused of dropping her 2-year-old granddaughter off a 44-foot mall walkway suffered from major depression and tried to commit suicide in the months before the November incident, witnesses testified Thursday.
Friends, relatives and doctors took the stand on the fourth day of Carmela Dela Rosa’s murder trial in Fairfax County as defense attorneys tried to show the 50-year-old is not guilty by reason of insanity.
Olga Achacoso, a cousin of Dela Rosa’s, testified that Dela Rosa was distraught and admitted to trying to commit suicide during a phone conversation less than week before Angelyn’s killing on Nov. 29, 2010 at Tysons Corner Center.
“I want to spare my family from the pain and suffering I’m bringing them,” Achacoso recalled Dela Rosa telling her.
Dela Rosa swallowed 75 prescription and over-the-counter pills about three months earlier — one of a handful of suicide attempts in the months before Angelyn’s killing, according to court records.
Dr. Cynthia L. Gauss, a psychiatrist at INOVA Fairfax Hospital, examined Dela Rosa after the suicide attempt and testified the grandmother was suffering from a “major depression with no psychosis.”
“She was feeling hopeless and overwhelmed,” Gauss said. “She was distressed and burned out from trying to find a job.”
Dela Rosa had lost a series of part-time jobs shortly before Angelyn’s death. The Dela Rosa family was also under serious financial strain.
Gauss said Dela Rosa needed intensive treatment and that her judgement was clouded by depression. Other doctors testified they had prescribed Prozac for Dela Rosa, who was on and off the depression medication for years.
During cross-examination from Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh, Gauss testified Dela Rosa was alert, pleasant and cooperative when she examined her a few days after the suicide attempt. Dela Rosa also did not have homicidal or suicidal thoughts at the time, the doctor said.
In Virginia, the defense has a high bar to meet to prove an insanity plea. Attorneys must show a mental health problem kept the defendant from understanding the nature, character and consequences of a crime or that the defendant was unable to distinguish right from wrong.