Mother will enter insanity plea

Special
Jeannette Hawes' trial for next week was put off after a mental exam was released.

The Augusta woman accused of fatally stabbing her two small children last year in a convenience store restroom will present an insanity defense.

Jeannette Hawes' attorney filed a formal notice of defense this week to raise the issue of insanity, mental illness or metal retardation.

Last week, Barry Middleton of the public defender's office said Ms. Hawes, 22, was incapable of understanding what she was doing Nov. 28.

She had been scheduled to stand trial next week, but the mental examination report released to attorneys this week led to a postponement.

Ms. Hawes faces charges of murder and weapon violations and is accused of stabbing to death her 1-year-old son, Jordan, and 3-year-old daughter, Shakayla, in the restroom of a Lumpkin Road convenience store.

Public Defender Sam B. Sibley Jr. said Thursday he believes Ms. Hawes' case will resolve itself without a trial.

In the days leading up the children's deaths, family and neighbors described Ms. Hawes as acting stressed and depressed.

The day before the children's deaths, Ms. Hawes' sister called the sheriff's department for help when she couldn't find Ms. Hawes or her children. That case was closed when an officer found Ms. Hawes at her Lumpkin Road apartment.

According to court documents, the circumstances of the case raised concerns about Ms. Hawes' capacity to understand the difference between right and wrong at the time her children were killed.

If Ms. Hawes is found not guilty by reason of insanity, she would be committed to a mental institution for treatment.

If the medical staff later determined she was not a danger to herself or others, the judge who presided over her case would decide if she could be released and, if so, under what conditions.

Ms. Hawes was no stranger to violence. When she was 10, authorities said, she witnessed her 14-year-old sister's death. Nicole Hawes was killed on Nov. 18, 1995, by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting in Underwood Homes.

THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE BROKE THIS STORY ON ITS WEB SITE AT 7:28 P.M. THURSDAY.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.