The talk of the town this weekend was 21-year-old Abigail “Abi” Hanna, the babysitter/psychopath who broke into a home at 3am with a weapon, kidnapped the 2-year-old girl she used to babysit, shaved her head, left cigarette burns all over her body, gave her a bruise the size of a softball on her skull, and capped it all off by leaving the toddler to die naked in pile of leaves freezing on the side of the road. Lovely!
This apple looks delicious, I think I’ll kill it!
As usual – a scroll through Hanna’s facebook page reveals nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, she appears to be a pretty young girl, with tons of friends and hobbies. She is well-educated, well-traveled, she is newly engaged to her boyfriend, and looks to be intelligent, normal, and well-liked by all with a loving family. Much like the crazed Blackstone mother Erika Murray, by looking at her social media pages, it didn’t appear that anything was amiss. If you didn’t have intimate knowledge of the situation, by all accounts, you would have no idea that Miss Hanna would be the type to break into your house at 3am, steal your child and torture her.
However, in court today, we saw a very different picture of Miss Hanna. She was incoherent, unable to even stand up at certain times, and a court clinician testified that Hanna of Topsfield is experiencing psychotic symptoms including audio and visual hallucinations, has expressed suicidal thoughts and is currently not competent to stand trial. The suspect also has a history of suicide attempts, hallucinations and memory loss, Dr. Tammy Howe told the court.
“At this time Abigail is addressing serious and potentially life-threatening issues,” her lawyer Susan H. McNeil said in a statement. “These issues have clearly impacted her overall mental health. We are in the early stages of the process of trying to determine the facts of what occurred over the past several days. We’ve entered a plea of not guilty to further the process.”
Hanna was ordered sent to Worcester Recovery Center for further evaluation.
This begs the question: Should Abi Hanna be held responsible for this reprehensible crime? If so, how “accountable” is she? Since none of us know what is going on in her twisted mind, how can we evaluate what her motives were, and how “guilty” she really is?
Another interesting point that is often brought up in mental illness cases – how difficult would it be to trick a clinical psychologist into thinking that you are severely mentally ill? Or at least more mentally disturbed than you actually are? If the evaluation period only lasts a few hours, would it be that hard to ramble incoherently and fool even the most seasoned psychiatrist ala Edward Norton in the movie “Primal Fear”? And what toll does it take on our society when we continue to excuse criminal behavior due to various mental illnesses in some cases, but not in others?
Now there is no denying that Abi Hanna must be experiencing some form of mental illness. There is no other plausible explanation to commit such a bizarre, motiveless, horrific crime. The problem is – how can we ever determine how severely she should be punished, when she is the only one that truly knows what’s going on in her brain.
As everyone knows, there’s a big difference between serving 20 years in jail, and 4 years in a psych ward for being found “not guilty by mental disease or defect”. If Abi Hanna does get sentenced to a mental institution, and a panel of psychiatrists eventually deems her fit to rejoin society, I would hate to see her lurking at the local playground around my children in a few years, wouldn’t you?