CHARLESTON — A woman accused of causing her young son's death and facing a charge of first-degree murder will be examined for her mental fitness for trial.
The examination was ordered Monday for Savannah M. Weiss, whose alleged neglect of her 2-year-old son led to his death from starvation or dehydration last month, according to police.
Weiss, 22, was arrested after the boy was found dead at her residence at 1052 First St., Charleston, on the morning of Dec. 4.
Squalid conditions were found and it was discovered that Weiss had left the boy alone there for all or part of three days, according to police testimony from an earlier hearing.
Coles County Public Defender Anthony Ortega, who represents Weiss, filed a motion last week asking that a clinical psychologist be appointed to examine her.
On Monday, Circuit Judge Brien O'Brien granted the motion without objection from State's Attorney Brian Bower.
The examination will determine if Weiss is mentally fit to be tried on the murder charge.
Specifically, the issue refers to whether she's able to understand the charges and help with her defense. It's not the same as an insanity defense and doesn't address whether or not she's guilty.
If the examination determines Weiss is unfit for trial, she would be confined to a state mental health facility for treatment until her condition changes and she becomes fit.
On Monday, O'Brien scheduled a hearing for Feb. 5 to check the status of the case. Weiss remains jailed on $1.5 million bond.
According to the police testimony at the earlier hearing, the boy was found dead when emergency crews responded to the residence.
Weiss first told police she left him in the care of others while she was at work and at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center for her own health issue on Dec. 1 and 2, the testimony indicated.
Weiss was questioned again after an autopsy showed the boy's cause of death as dehydration, starvation or a combination of the two, according to the testimony.
During the second interview, Weiss said she was gone from the home from about 10 a.m. on Dec. 1 and returned about 6 p.m. Dec. 3, admitting that she left the boy unattended in a playpen.
Weiss said she left some food and a bottle of vitamin water, with a small hole in the lid, with the boy in the playpen while she was gone, according to the testimony. However, it also indicated the amount of food debris in the playpen meant it couldn't be confirmed if the food was there, and the bottle wasn't found.
The charges against Weiss accuse her of failing to provide food, water and sanitary conditions for the boy, leading to his death by dehydration or starvation. The charges state that she knew or should have known that her actions created a "strong possibility" of death or great harm to the boy. She could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.