An Oak Ridge woman facing first-degree murder charges and possibly the death penalty in connection to the death of her granddaughter in 2011 will be taken next week to a psychiatric hospital where doctors will evaluate her competency to stand trial and her mental health.
53-year-old Valerie Stenson is currently being held at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville, but is expected to be admitted to the Moccasin Bend Psychiatric Hospital in Chattanooga on January 17th, as our partners at Oak Ridge Today first reported Wednesday evening. Her trial had been scheduled for last month but was canceled in lieu of the mental evaluation and it remains unclear whetther or not it will be rescheduled.
Stenson was charged with first degree murder in the April 17th, 2011 death of her toddler granddaughter Manhattan Inman, who was found dead inside a home on Teller Village Lane. The following spring she was indicted by the Anderson County grand jury on a charge of first-degree murder and four counts of aggravated child abuse or negelct. The District Attorney’s Office announced shortly thereafter that they would be seeking the death penalty due to aggravating circumstances including the age of the victim, and what the DA called at the time, “the heinous, atrocious, or cruel nature of the alleged crime.”
Stenson was indicted again in 2013 on nine counts of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect and aggravated child endangerment in connection to incidents involving three children under the age of 18 that allegedly had occurred in the year leading up to Manhattan’s death.
A competency evaluation will try to determine if Stenson has the ability to cooperate with her attorneys and whether she understands the nature of ther charges against her and their possible consequences. A mental health evaluation will look at her mental state at the time of the crime.
The results of the evaluation will be reported back to Anderson County Criminal Court but there has been no indication of how long that might take. We will continue to follow this story for you.