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It was an average autumn day on November 22, 2004, in Plano, Texas. People went

about their normal routines as they were oblivious to the horrific events that would unfold

in the quiet Fairway apartment complex in the 1700 block of Coit Road there in Plano, a

suburb of Dallas. Dena Schlosser had gotten her two older daughters, ages six and nine,

off to school as usual and her husband went off to work, while Dena seemingly prepared

to spend a normal day at home with their ten-month old daughter, Maggie. On the

outside, everything appeared normal. Neighbors say Dena could be seen daily taking

Maggie for a stroller ride around the complex, or taking all the girls to the pool when the

weather was good for swimming. No one could have seen the horror that lurked in the

recesses of Dena’s mind. No one would have ever guessed that Dena could be violent.

After all, she was reportedly a loving, affectionate mother who never had shown any

aggression or anger to her children; somehow, though, this 35 year old mother had been

slowly losing her grip on reality for months in sporadic episodes. The events that would

unfold that day have left a nation in mourning for the loss of innocent life, and disgusted

with the negligence of the people who should have been aware of the problems emerging.

This negligence resulted in the break up of a family, a divorce, a heinous crime, at least a

dozen lives destroyed, and a trial for capital murder.

Margaret, or Maggie, Schlosser was born in January of 2004, to Dena and John

Schlosser of Plano, Texas. They were also the parents of two other girls, ages six and

nine. They seemed to be a happy, middle-class family. Due to downsizing at his job, John

had ended up having to move his family from their nice, suburban home into a small

apartment in Plano. Still, the family was reportedly happy. They were good people who

attended church regularly, engaged in activities with their children, and generally led a

quiet, middle-class existence. On the inside, however, there were problems unknown to

the people in their complex.

Dena had gone through several surgeries over many years due to excess fluid on her

brain. Her step-father believes that she had developed some psychological problems from

all the surgeries. (Associated Press, Feb 17, 2006) She had also had some history of post

partum depression following the birth of her older daughters, but it had appeared that she

recovered quickly and had no further problems. According to several sources, Dena was

diagnosed with something more serious after the birth of Maggie. The doctors believed

that she started with post partum depression, but quickly upgraded to post partum

psychosis, which is much more severe. This psychosis can lead to delusions, suicidal

fixation, and general psychotic episodes, and it also has a much greater time span than the

three to five month post partum depression which is quite common today. She was put on

anti-psychotic medication, but was unable to continue treatment due to alleged financial

problems. The reason she got the treatment and diagnosis was an incident that happened

when Maggie was only six days old. Dena was seen running down the street, one of her

children chasing her on a bicycle, and the witness called police. The officers found Dena

two miles away from her apartment, where her three daughters were left unattended. She

was taken to a hospital where she was admitted for psychiatric reasons, but was released

only 24 hours later. No one close to her paid much attention.

Following this incident, several other episodes occurred that were only brought to

light following the tragedy. Dena reportedly “snapped” on several occasions, but the

episodes were short. She would scream, growl, and even hiss at people. She had also used

scissors to cut her wrists. Her husband, John, stated in his trial testimony that her

behavior didn’t worry him too much. He went on to state that he thought she had gotten

better over the course of a few months, and felt like he was getting his wife back. He had

also put his family into the Water of Life Ministries. This is a far from mainstream church

that has a following in Plano. Doyle Davidson, the pastor, has been the object of some

scrutiny. Although John and Dena had been to him for counseling about her problems,

Davidson states that he remembers talking with them but doesn’t recall the subject of the

conversations. Davidson claims that mental illness is nothing more than a demon

possession that cannot be cured by psychiatrists or medicine; he says only God can cure

this. He has claimed to cast out demons that were six feet tall with long tails. He also says

that every woman is somewhat “possessed” by a jezebel spirit that must be exorcised.

According to this faith, women are the weaker sex whose stake in life is to serve their

male counterparts. So, according to Dena’s religion, seeking medical help or medicine

would be a sin, and getting counseling or help of any kind against her husband’s wishes

was also a sin. One week before the murder, Dena cried as she and her husband left the

church. She told her husband that she wanted to give Maggie to God while she shook

hysterically. Again, he thought that her behavior was not so unreasonable since she

seemed to return to normal later that night. (Contra Costa Times, Wednesday, February

15, 2006)

November 22, 2004 started normally for everyone except for Dena Schlosser. As

everyone left their home for school or work, Dena was being called upon by God to do

something horrific to save herself and her baby. She did not share these delusions with

anyone, so everyone left. While at home alone with Maggie, Dena chose to carry out

these “orders from God.” She laid Maggie down in her crib while she went into the

kitchen and chose the largest knife they owned. At some point, she opened the Bible next

to Maggie’s crib and turned the stereo on to play a church hymn called “He Touched

Me.” After that, she took the knife and began to cut off her baby daughter’s arms.

According to reports, the baby must have been conscious in the beginning. She had

several nicks on her face as if she had been squirming and writhing in pain, yet her

mother continued on. She cut both her arms completely off, and at some point, began to

try cutting off one of her own arms. Strangely, her husband, John, called a daycare center

and asked them to check on his wife and daughter. After talking with her, the daycare

worker called 911. The 911 operator, Steve Edwards, then called Dena. In this eerie call,

Edwards asked Dena if there was an emergency and she very calmly stated yes. He then

asked her exactly what happened, and she calmly said, “I cut her arms off,” while the

church hymn played in the background. He repeated her statement, and she said “uh-


Police were immediately sent to the scene where they made a grisly discovery. Dena

was sitting in the living room with blood all over her clothes and face, still grasping the

knife, as baby Maggie lay dying in her crib in the next room. Maggie was in a blood

soaked crib with her severed arms lying beside her. She was pronounced dead later that

day at Plano Medical Center, less than two blocks away. When police asked Dena why

she did this, she would only say she felt like she had to. Police say that her behavior was

far from normal. She would answer questions about herself, but not about Maggie. Police

also stated that Dena would smile randomly, and shout out “Praise God,” or “Thank you,

God.” Dena was taken to be treated for a deep cut in her shoulder and arrested for

murder. While her daughter died in the hospital, Dena reportedly screamed, cried, prayed,

growled, and begged for forgiveness. No real motive was established for the crime until

later psychiatric evaluations.

Dena Schlosser’s trial for capital murder would reveal testimony that offered a grisly,

disturbing motive for her crime. She says she was commanded by God to cut off her

child’s limbs, followed by her own limbs and head. This is clearly impossible; how can

you cut anything else if you have cut off both your arms? This command from God was

real to her no matter how silly it seems to the rest of the world. Also, other psychotic

episodes were revealed in court. She had shown up in a hospital in May 2004 in the

middle of the night where she was found passed out on the floor. Nothing else has been

released on that matter, but it is clear that she was not treated. Her former psychiatrist

stated that although he had found her to be delusional and hyper religious, he did not find

her to be dangerously insane during her treatment. She was diagnosed as manic

depressive after her arrest and it took months of treatment before she was competent to

stand trial.

As of right now, the judge had declared a mistrial in this case. The jury could not agree

on a verdict. Ten jurors wanted not guilty by reason of insanity, which was her plea. One

juror said she was guilty, and one was undecided. The prosecutor is not sure whether or

not this case will be presented again, so the outcome of the whole thing is uncertain.

Prior mental problems, suicide attempts, abnormal behavior, psychotic episodes,

growling and hissing at others, and running away from home should have been warning

signs for future problems. They should have been like a huge Las Vegas matinee sign to

point out that this woman needed medical attention. How could all this have gone

unnoticed by doctors, child protective services, and family members? A psychosis is a


very serious personality disorder, yet everyone around Dena Schlosser just ignored the

diagnosis as well as the behavior. There was an overwhelming lack of social control in

Dena’s life. Her husband was allegedly abusive mentally which contributes to the lack of

affection. This woman had no way of gratifying her personal, basic, human needs through

her closest social relationships. Walter Reckless’s containment theory spoke of social

pressures like poor living conditions and family conflicts. The research into Dena’s life

shows that her husband has kept her away from her family as much as possible, and even

more since he put them into the Water of Life church. Her family strongly objected to this

new religion and they had seen first hand what it was doing to Dena. She had become one

of those religious fanatics, serving her husband’s belief that she was supposed to be the

perfect, subservient wife and mother. It seems that the healthy family ties she had were

severed by her husband’s control over her. This church and their religion, I believe, was a

social pull on her. I see it as a delinquent subculture, since it is documented that the

pastor has actually committed crime in the name of exorcisms. This religion made it a sin

for Dena to take her anti-psychotic medication, or to seek professional help. In turn, I

believe that she had tension and hostility, probably toward herself. She probably felt like

she was not a good enough Christian if her problems were still there. She probably

believed that God did not think she was good enough yet for Him to help her. This is the

type of thinking that these subcultures, like the occults, breed.

I also believe that social bond theory comes into play here, or at least the lack of social

bonds. Although Dena had attachment in her church, it was unhealthy. The commitment

they showed was to help her live a life without treatment. I truly believe that although her

church and husband provided involvement and belief, and she may have seen them as

trying to help her, they were sealing her fate. If she had been encouraged to seek

treatment from the beginning, and if her church would have helped her to get what she

needed, little Maggie would be two years old now, and Dena probably would have gone

back to being a good mother. The problem is that even though these theories can be used

to determine causes of crime or problems, these same principles can be twisted and

turned around to manipulate a person who is weak minded or unintelligent. I believe that

this is what happened to Dena Schlosser. She was a simple woman with some problems,

and had a husband and a church who wanted her under their thumbs. Now she is going to

be under the thumb of the state for the rest of her days, I’m quite sure.

Social bond theories worked against Dena Schlosser. Although most of us cannot feel

any love for her after her horrific actions, many of us can feel sorry for her. Her condition

has improved according to papers, and she is in her right mind now. I have to wonder if

she remembers what happened. If she was truly insane at the time she did this, and did

not know right from wrong at the time, then how is she going to feel when she regains all

her senses and realizes that she mutilated her baby in the name of God? She made a

statement to a jail counselor after her arrest that something went terribly wrong that day

because she and Maggie were both supposed to die and go be with God, and only Maggie

went. A woman who “awakens” from this nightmare of delusion could never be punished

by the state in the way that she will be punished by her own heart and conscience. The

prosecution is not seeking the death penalty in this case, but I think that may be the only

mercy for this woman. She will relive this every day until she joins Maggie in the



The Associated Press, 2/14 and 2/17/06

Contra Costa Times, 2/15/06

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 2/14/06

Understanding Crime, Winfree and Abadinsky