SAN ANTONIO – The scene was so gruesome investigators could barely speak: A 3 1/2-week-old boy lay dismembered in the bedroom of a single-story house, three of his tiny toes chewed off, his face torn away, his head severed and his brains ripped out.”At this particular scene you could have heard a pin drop,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said Monday. “No one was speaking. It was about as somber as it could have been.”
Officers called to the home early Sunday found the boy’s mother, Otty Sanchez, sitting on the couch with a self-inflicted wound to her chest and her throat partially slashed, screaming “I killed my baby! I killed my baby!” police said. She told officers the devil made her do it, police said.
Sanchez, 33, apparently ate the child’s brain and some other body parts before stabbing herself, McManus said.
“It’s too heinous for me to describe it any further,” McManus told reporters.
Sanchez is charged with capital murder in the death of her son, Scott Wesley Buccholtz-Sanchez. She was being treated Monday at a hospital, and was being held on $1 million bail.
‘In and out’ of psychiatric ward
The slaying occurred a week after the child’s father moved out, McManus said. Otty Sanchez’s sister and her sister’s two children, ages 5 and 7, were in the house, but none were harmed.
Police said Sanchez did not have an attorney, and they declined to identify family members.
No one answered the door Monday at Sanchez’s home, where the blinds were shut. A hopscotch pattern and red hearts were drawn on the walk leading up to the house.
Sanchez’s aunt, Gloria Sanchez, said her niece had been “in and out” of a psychiatric ward but did not say where she was treated or why. She said a hospital called several months ago to check up on her.
“Otty didn’t mean to do that. She was not in her right mind,” a sobbing Gloria Sanchez told The Associated Press on Monday by phone. She said her family was devastated.
Investigators are looking into Sanchez’s mental health history to see if there was anything “significant,” and whether postpartum difficulties could have factored into the attack, McManus said.
Postpartum depression — a pattern?
Postpartum depression and psychosis have been cited as contributing factors in several other cases in Texas in recent years in which mothers killed their children.
Andrea Yates drowned her five children in her Houston-area home 2001, saying she believed Satan was inside her and trying to save them from hell. Her attorneys said she had been suffering from severe postpartum psychosis, and a jury found Yates not guilty by reason of insanity in 2006.
In 2004, Dena Schlosser killed her 10-month-old in her Plano home by slicing off the baby’s arms. She was found not guilty of reason by insanity, after testifying that she killed the baby because she wanted to give her to God.
Sanchez’s neighbors expressed sorrow and horror Monday at the grisly killing.
Neighbor Luis Yanez, 23, said his kids went to school with one of the small children who lived at the house. He said he often saw a woman playing outside with the children but didn’t know whether it was Otty.
“Why would you do that to your baby?” said Yanez, a tire technician. “It brings chills to you. They can’t defend themselves.”
Allen Taylor, another neighbor, said “once she gets back in her right mind, she’s going to be devastated.”
In two studies led by Assistant Psychology Professor Michael Inzlicht, participants performed a Stroop task – a well-known test of cognitive control – while hooked up to electrodes that measured their brain activity.
Compared to non-believers, the religious participants showed significantly less activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a portion of the brain that helps modify behavior by signaling when attention and control are needed, usually as a result of some anxiety-producing event like making a mistake. The stronger their religious zeal and the more they believed in God, the less their ACC fired in response to their own errors, and the fewer errors they made.
“You could think of this part of the brain like a cortical alarm bell that rings when an individual has just made a mistake or experiences uncertainty,” says lead author Inzlicht, who teaches and conducts research at the University of Toronto Scarborough. “We found that religious people or even people who simply believe in the existence of God show significantly less brain activity in relation to their own errors. They’re much less anxious and feel less stressed when they have made an error.”
These correlations remained strong even after controlling for personality and cognitive ability, says Inzlicht, who also found that religious participants made fewer errors on the Stroop task than their non-believing counterparts.
Their findings show religious belief has a calming effect on its devotees, which makes them less likely to feel anxious about making errors or facing the unknown. But Inzlicht cautions that anxiety is a “double-edged sword” which is at times necessary and helpful.
“Obviously, anxiety can be negative because if you have too much, you’re paralyzed with fear,” he says. “However, it also serves a very useful function in that it alerts us when we’re making mistakes. If you don’t experience anxiety when you make an error, what impetus do you have to change or improve your behaviour so you don’t make the same mistakes again and again?”
The study is appearing online now in Psychological Science.
Source: University of Toronto
Â The reason evil exists in the world is because god(s) gave us free will, right? Doesn’t look that way.
You’re going to press that button, right? You know you’re going to press it and then . . . you make a conscious decision and you press it, right?
Maybe not, say German researchers in a new study published in the April 13 online edition of Nature Neuroscience.
Using sophisticated brain imaging techniques, the researchers found that they can predict people’s simple decisions up to 10 seconds before they’re conscious of making such a choice.
“It seems that your brain starts to trigger your decision before you make up your mind,” said the study’s lead author, John-Dylan Haynes of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany. “We can’t rule out free will, but I think it’s very implausible. The question is, can we still decide against the decision our brain has made?”
The study is the latest salvo in a longstanding scientific and philosophical debate over whether what we perceive as “free will” decisions are actually made before we’re aware that we’re making them.
A groundbreaking study, conducted in the 1980s by the recently deceased neurophysiologist Benjamin Libet, suggested that a region of the brain that prepares muscles to move showed activity a few hundred milliseconds before subjects made a conscious decision to press a button.