Lawyer: Texas mom in boy death case is suicidal

This 2005 file booking photo provided by the Dallas County Jail shows Julianne McCrery of Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/Dallas County Jail/file)

May 19, 2011 9:56:40 AM PDT
The Texas woman accused of killing her 6-year-old son and leaving his body on an isolated dirt road in Maine is suicidal, her lawyer said Thursday.

"All she says is her son's in heaven and she wants to be with him," attorney George Murphy said right before Julianne McCrery was scheduled to appear in a Massachusetts court on a fugitive from justice charge.

Murphy met his sobbing client for the first time on Wednesday at state police barracks where she was being held following her arrest earlier in the day.

McCrery, 42, of Irving, Texas was taken to a local hospital on Wednesday night at Murphy's request, but was soon released and returned to the state police lockup.

She faces a murder charge in New Hampshire, where authorities allege she killed 6-year-old Camden Hughes on Saturday.

Preliminary autopsy findings showed that the cause of Camden's death was asphyxiation and the manner of death was homicide, according to Maine's chief medical examiner. The homicide remains under investigation.

"I told her she is charged with second-degree murder and she said `It should be the death penalty. If it's the death penalty I could get to heaven,' " Murphy said.

She told Murphy she had attempted suicide within the past few days and had tried to kill herself several times in 2004, although she did not explain why, Murphy said.

He added that he believes she is competent to face the charges against her.

The police apprehension of her Wednesday set off a rapid-fire chain of events in which jurisdiction shifted from Maine, where the boy's body was discovered, to Massachusetts, where McCrery was found and questioned, and finally to New Hampshire, where authorities believe the boy died and the formal charges were ultimately filed.

She did not explain why she came to New England, Murphy said.

Texas public records show that McCrery was arrested at least twice on prostitution charges and once for possession with intent to distribute drugs. In 2009, she was sentenced to one year in prison for a misdemeanor conviction of prostitution. In 2004, she was sentenced to three years of probation for a felony conviction of possession of a controlled substance.

The voicemail for a Texas phone listing for McCrery was full.

Her son died Saturday, the same day his body was discovered by a local resident in South Berwick, Maine, near the state line with New Hampshire, officials said. He had not been reported missing, and amid several frustrating days seeking his identity, Maine State Police had released a computer-generated image showing a boy with dirty blond hair and blue eyes.

Christian von Atzigen, of Irving, Texas, said he told police he recognized the boy as the son of McCrery, a woman he and his wife have been close friends with since she and his wife met in school 15 years ago.

"We didn't want to believe it," von Atzigen said.

"Julie's a good person. If you would ever ask me if she would harm a hair on that precious little boy's head, I would say never," he told The Associated Press. "She loves that boy."

Von Atzigen said that after McCrery and her husband divorced, he and his wife remained friends with both of them. He said Camden was a happy boy, and he never heard McCrery raise her voice to him.

"I never even saw her discipline him," he said. "He was just a great little boy, just fun, a good kid, smart as a whip," he said.

Von Atzigen said he last saw McCrery on Easter, when she came to his house to get a part to fix her hot water heater. While she was there, she dropped off some of Camden's toys for his 2-year-old son, he said.

He said he doesn't know why McCrery was in Maine.

"My wife talked to her a couple of days ago and everything seemed OK," he said. "There was no mention of her going anywhere."

Maine State Police had enlisted the help of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service after a witness noticed naval insignia on a truck being driven by a woman near where the body was found.

McCrery was taken into custody at a highway rest stop in Massachusetts after police got a tip she was there. She was in a truck that matched the description of the vehicle, authorities said.

In Maine, the case has led to an outpouring of emotion. Several hundred people attended a candlelight vigil in the boy's memory Tuesday night in front of the South Berwick town hall.

Near where the boy was found, people have placed three crosses, dozens of stuffed animals, candles, flowers, a baseball and other children's items. A framed piece of paper says, "God Bless This Little Boy."


Russ Contreras reported from Concord, Mass. Associated Press writers David Sharp in Portland, Maine; Clarke Canfield in Alfred, Maine; and Kathy McCormack in Concord, N.H.; contributed to this report.