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Judge to reconsider mental evaluation for Chambersburg woman charged in boy's death

Michele Renae Hunter is charged with aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children, simple assault and conspiracy

April 18, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — A Chambersburg woman accused of sending text messages about her then-4-year-old stepson’s deteriorating medical condition, but not taking him to a doctor, testified in court Thursday.

Michele Renae Hunter, 28, is charged with aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children, simple assault and conspiracy. She told a Franklin County (Pa.) Court of Common Pleas judge that she was “depressed” and “spaced out” when she gave statements to police in March 2011.

“I was not functioning at all,” Hunter said.

Hunter’s attorney, Stephen Kulla, asked Judge Carol Van Horn to reconsider her previous denial of a motion. He has asked that Hunter be evaluated for her mental state and competency at the time she made statements to police, saying those statements might have been made against her will because she did not understand her legal ability to say “no.”

Hunter testified she started to consider six or seven months ago that she was not fully coherent when interviewed by police. She said she since has been prescribed antidepressants.

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“It’s not something I thought about at that point. There wasn’t much I was thinking of at that point,” Hunter said, saying she was pregnant and distressed because her other children were taken by authorities.

Assistant District Attorney Lauren Sulcove questioned Hunter about her police interviews on March 17, 18 and 24 of 2011. Hunter said she understood her right to have an attorney, but does not remember being told that what she said could be used in court.

Van Horn said she will rule within 30 days whether Hunter should be evaluated for her mental state, despite the defense having missed its original deadline to submit that motion.

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued an opinion Jan. 15 saying that Hunter’s text messages to her husband can be used as evidence at trial. Hunter allegedly sent more than 50 texts to her husband, William Hunter, chronicling his son’s condition before he went into cardiac arrest, according to court documents.

Michele Hunter’s stepson suffered a severe brain injury and bruising, court documents state. His caregiver testified in November 2011 he cannot walk, talk, swallow food or communicate.

Michele Hunter allegedly told authorities a few different stories about what happened to the boy to cause the injuries, according to court documents.

William Hunter is charged with endangering the welfare of children and conspiracy. His trial is scheduled for July 8.

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