Modesto -- A judge on Friday ruled that a 26-year-old Patterson woman is not guilty of murder by reason of insanity in connection with the bathtub drowning of her 3-year-old daughter nearly three years ago.
The judge's ruling means the court believes Jennifer Lynn Bigham was suffering from mental illness when authorities found her daughter, Alexandrea Bigham, underwater in the bathtub.
The court now will have to decide what happens to Bigham. Will she be released soon from custody? Or will she be sent to a secure facility for further mental health treatment?
The incident occurred Jan. 14, 2010, at a home in the 400 block of Thrush Drive in Patterson. Authorities tried to resuscitate Alexandrea, but the girl died at a Modesto hospital about four hours later.
A family member, along with a neighbor who had heard a "commotion" at the house, called 911.
Stanislaus County sheriff's officials have said Bigham was found at the home with self-inflicted, superficial stab wounds to her upper body. She was treated at the hospital before she was jailed.
Bigham has been in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail since Jan. 15, 2010, and will remain there until her case concludes.
Her case did not reach the preliminary hearing phase, when a judge listens to testimony and determines whether there is enough evidence to proceed to a trial.
Bigham appeared briefly in court Friday morning. Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff said he received reports from two doctors about her mental health.
The judge scheduled Bigham to return to court Dec. 14. The court must determine whether she still suffers from mental illness.
The defendant sat quietly during the hearing and did not make any statements.
Deputy District Attorney Elaine Casillas said after Friday's hearing that the prosecution has asked for an agency to evaluate Bigham's mental health condition over a 15-day period. She said the court then can decide if Bigham can seek further treatment as an outpatient or be ordered to receive treatment in a secure medical facility.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.