SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Jurors on Friday found an Aptos woman guilty of murder in the death of her young daughter.
Veva Virgil, 42, was convicted of smothering her daughter at a Watsonville motel more than five years ago.
Prosecutors said that on Nov. 15, 2008, Virgil checked into the Motel 6 on Silverleaf Drive. Motel staff found the body of her 3 1/2-year-old daughter in the room the next day.
Virgil was arrested the next day at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, where she'd been placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold. Witnesses testified at trial that Virgil told hospital staff she had killed her daughter to protect her from the world.
Virgil's attorneys argued their client has a history of mental illness and was having a psychotic episode at the time.
Closing arguments were heard Thursday and jurors returned a verdict Friday morning.
Virgil's case is a bit of an unusual one for Santa Cruz County Superior Court, however. Because she entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, jurors will now how to deliberate whether they believe Virgil meets the legal definition of insanity. Opening statements in this second portion of the trial will begin Monday.
If jurors determine she was, in fact, legally insane at the time of her daughter's murder, she will likely be sent to a state mental hospital for treatment. Should they find that she doesn't fit the legal definition of insane, she will be sentenced to prison.
Under law, a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity requires a defendant to undergo psychiatric evaluations by court-appointed doctors. Those evaluations primarily focus on what the status or condition of the defendant's mental state was at the time the incident occurred.