Santa Cruz County

Jurors deliberating in second phase of Veva Virgil trial

Jurors to decide whether Aptos mother was legally insane when she killed her daughter

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Jurors are deliberating over whether an Aptos woman who killed her daughter was legally insane at the time.

Veva Virgil, 42, was found guilty of murder last month for smothering her daughter in a Watsonville motel room. Motel employees at the Motel 6 on Silverleaf Drive found the body of 3 1/2-year-old Isabella Grace Martinez on the Nov. 15, 2008. 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. Her attorneys say she has a history of mental illness and was having a psychotic episode at the time.

Virgil was already found guilty of murder but her case is a bit of an unusual one for the Santa Cruz County Superior Court. Because she previously entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, jurors are now deliberating whether they believe Virgil meets the legal definition of insanity.

Jurors heard from court-appointed doctors who had evaluated Virgil with a focus on what the status or condition of her mental state was at the time of Isabella's death.

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 up to 25  years to life in prison.

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