Wednesday, April 01, 2009

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville woman ruled sane

Leader staff writer

A Jacksonville women charged with three felony counts of first-degree battery for abuse of her two children has been declared fit to stand trial.

Two of the charges are for incidents involving her daughter and one for an incident involving her son.

Manuella Whitfield, 26, was arrested on July 14, 2008. She and her boyfriend had taken her 8-month-old daughter, Sabrina, to the North Metro Medical Center emergency room because Whitfield thought the child had suffered a seizure. Medical personnel discovered a hand-shaped bruise on the girl’s thigh, as well as other signs of abuse including scratches, a healing leg fracture, separation of the cranial joints, retina hemorrhages, intracranial bleeding and a broken finger.

At first, Whitfield denied hurting Sabrina and her 4-year-old son Michael, claiming that the injuries were caused by accidental falls.

Several days after her arrest, Whitfield admitted to Jacksonville police that she had inflicted injuries on both her children.

After a stay at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, both children were placed in foster care. Whitfield has another son, age 9, who has been in the custody of her mother since 2005.

Whitfield’s trial is scheduled for July 15 before Judge Barry Sims of the Pulaski County Circuit Court, 7th Division.

Psychologist Charles Mallory conducted a psychiatric examination in February on Whitfield at the Pulaski County Regional Detention Center, where she has stayed since her arrest.

Mallory diagnosed Whitfield as having bipolar disorder with psychotic features and mild retardation, but concluded that she understands the charges against her and the criminality of her alleged acts.

Whitfield admitted to Mallory that she sometimes took her anger out on her children. But at the same time she denied having injured them, saying her admission to police was only made to get off on a lighter sentence.

She faces imprisonment of 10 to 40 years on each count.

Whitfield has a troubled past that includes drug abuse, treatment for mood instability and violent conflict, hospitalizations for mental illness, and a conviction in New York, for which she served jail time, for terroristic threatening and violation of a protective order.

She was also arrested for child endangerment.

Whitfield was never prosecuted but ordered to attend parenting and anger management classes.

She was placed on medication in 2000 after a hospitalization, but later stopped taking it. She was not on medication at the time of her arrest, she told Mallory.

Whitfield was born in Nebraska and lived in New York until moving to Arkansas at age 18 with her mother.