BARNSTABLE - Erin
Colleran killed her daughter on impulse
while in a profound depression, according
to two mental health experts who testified
yesterday in Barnstable Superior Court.
One of those experts,
Dr. Charlotte Denton, a forensic psychologist,
evaluated Colleran, 29, at Taunton
State Hospital shortly after the Sandwich
woman was charged with killing her
The other, Dr. Martin
Kelly, a forensic psychiatrist testified
for the defense yesterday, but on
at least a dozen other occasions has
appeared as a prosecution witness
in Barnstable County courts. In this
case he was hired by the defense to
evaluate Colleran's mental and emotional
state before trial.
Colleran, a Sandwich
resident, confessed to both Sandwich
and state police that she smothered
then strangled Skyler Morse, 21/2,
on Dec. 18, 2001, while the toddler's
father slept in a nearby bedroom.
Glenny hopes to persuade the jury
that Colleran is guilty of first-degree
murder, killing her daughter deliberately
and with extreme cruelty. If convicted
of this, Colleran would be automatically
sentenced to life in prison without
possibility of parole.
Drew Segadelli hopes the jury will
find his client not guilty by reason
If this is the verdict,
Colleran would be sent to a state
psychiatric facility until a panel
of mental health experts deemed her
ready, if ever, to resume life outside
In order to get that
verdict, Segadelli must persuade the
jury of 10 women and four men - two
will be randomly selected as alternates
before deliberations begin - that
his client is insane, according to
the requirements of the law.
The legal definition
of insanity may differ from the common
perception of insanity, according
to some of the mental health experts
who testified yesterday.
Kelly told jurors
that Colleran was in the midst of
a psychotic depression at the time
she killed her daughter.
According to Denton,
Colleran contemplated suicide in the
week before her daughter's death.
Colleran was losing weight, not sleeping
and was extremely anxious. Although
she had been treated for anxiety and
depression in 1997, in the weeks prior
to her daughter's death, Colleran
did not tell anyone she was depressed,
Nor did she tell
anyone that she was thinking about
suicide, according to Denton.
On the morning she
killed Skyler, Colleran contemplated
an overdose, but the only pills in
the house were Tylenol. She stood
in the kitchen with a knife against
her wrists but could not cut her skin,
"She couldn't kill
her self. She wanted someone else
to do it," Denton said.
Colleran told Denton
that shortly after laying down the
knife, she took Skyler into the living
room where the little girl finished
a bottle, then laid her face against
her mother's shoulder and fell asleep.
Colleran said she
placed her sleeping daughter on the
couch and pushed her face into the
cushions, first with one hand and
then two as the little girl cried
out and flailed her feet in a struggle
When Skyler stopped
moving, Colleran flipped her over
and noticed the little girl's lips
had turned blue. Fearing that if Skyler
survived she would be brain damaged,
Colleran decided to "finish the job,"
In earlier testimony
a forensic pathologist said who ever
strangled Skyler squeezed hard enough
to leave fingernail imprints on the
According to Denton,
Colleran said she could not explain
why she killed her daughter. "I kept
doing it. I couldn't stop. It was
like I was possessed," she told the
However, in response
to a question, Colleran admitted that
had someone else been present in the
room, she probably would not have
tried to kill Skyler, Denton testified.
are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
today in Barnstable Superior Court.
(Published: June 19,