Mental tests in salt poison case

July 24, 2008 5:08:58 PM PDT
A mother accused in Pittsburgh of deliberately injecting her 4-month-old son with salt water will be sent to a state mental hospital because she suffers from severe depression. Judge Jeffrey Manning ordered Amber Brewington, 21, of Duck River, Tenn., to spend no more than 90 days at Mayview State Hospital before returning to court.

Psychiatrist Christine Martone, who evaluated Brewington twice, testified at the competency hearing that Brewington should be tested for Munchausen by proxy, a syndrome in which a caregiver fakes or induces illness in others to generate sympathy.

Brewington also has a borderline personality disorder, is severely depressed and admits having suicidal thoughts, Martone said.

"Right now, here, today, she would not be able to cooperate with an attorney," Martone said.

Brewington has been accused of poisoning her son, Noah King, with salt water. She was arrested after a nurse at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh told police she saw Brewington disconnecting the baby's feeding tube. She is charged with attempted homicide and other crimes.

Brewington allegedly told police she injected Noah with salt water at least five times, including while he was being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. King was transferred July 9 to the Pittsburgh hospital, where he remains in critical but stable condition.

Brewington has been under a suicide watch at the Allegheny County Jail. The psychiatrist said Brewington was able to answer questions but was so depressed she would be unable to cooperate with her attorney to prepare her defense in a criminal trial.

"She doesn't want to live, so she doesn't help in her defense," Martone said.

Her attorney, Duke Morris, said he spent about 45 minutes with Brewington early Thursday and felt she needed to receive psychiatric treatment before she could be tried. He said Brewington's responses were "extremely labored, deliberate" and not completely lucid.

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