Mother to stay in mental institution

Special
Jeanette Hawes: Mother who stabbed her two children told the judge Monday "I have gotten 100 percent better."

An Augusta woman who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the stabbing deaths of her two small children will remain in a mental institution for at least another year.

Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet made the decision Monday at the conclusion of a Richmond County Superior Court hearing.

Two doctors who examined Jeanette Hawes, 24, said she was insane at the time she killed 3-year-old Shakayla Hawes and 1-year-old Jordan Hawes on Nov. 29, 2007.

The doctors believe Ms. Hawes suffered a psychotic breakdown that afternoon when she walked her children inside the restroom at the Lumpkin Road convenience store and repeatedly stabbed them.

In a Jan. 7 bench trial, Judge Overstreet found her not guilty by reason of insanity.

Monday's hearing, which is called a 30-day hearing, was delayed until Ms. Hawes could be returned from the mental hospital in Savannah, Ga., Assistant Public Defender Debra Neumann said.

Ms. Neumann cited the most recent mental evaluation, which indicated that Ms. Hawes' mental health needs could be handled through outpatient care.

Assistant District Attorney Philip Catalano pointed to the section of the report that stated Ms. Hawes continues to lack insight into what happened and that she experiences negative thoughts when not medicated.

A relapse is still possible, he said.

Ms. Hawes and her family of supporters believes she has recovered from the psychotic episode sufficiently to return home.

"I have gotten 100 percent better, Judge Overstreet," Ms. Hawes said. She pledged to always take medication as prescribed.

Judge Overstreet said he was still concerned about her ability to care for herself and to consistently take her medication.

He declined to end her commitment.

By law, a judge has to annually review the case of anyone committed to a mental institution after a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

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