MODESTO — A judge on Wednesday set a trial to start Aug. 6 for a 19-year-old woman accused of stabbing her parents at their Denair home on Mother's Day two years ago.
Shanna Wills has been charged with murder in her father's death and attempted murder in the brutal attack on her mother, who survived her injuries. The defendant also has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon in the attack May 8, 2011.
Testimony in Wills' preliminary hearing has left no doubt that she repeatedly assaulted her parents during the attack. A jury will have to determine why she attacked Kenneth and Susan Wills, whether she intended to hurt her parents and if she was sane when she did it.
Wills appeared in court briefly Wednesday morning. Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge John Freeland scheduled her to return to court June 3 for another pretrial hearing.
The judge also scheduled a hearing July 29 to make sure both sides will be ready to proceed with the trial. The attorneys told the judge they estimate the trial will last three weeks.
The defendant was 17 when she was arrested shortly after the attack on her parents, but she is being prosecuted as an adult. Wills was held at the Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall until her 19th birthday in November, when she was transferred to the Stanislaus County Jail.
Testimony in a June preliminary hearing indicated that Wills attacked her parents with household objects before stabbing them both.
In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Randy Fischer emphasized testimony from sheriff's deputy Nathan Malone, who said Wills told him, "I was planning this. I had to do it."
The prosecutor argued that the attack was a sustained assault, not someone lashing out with a single blow.
Wills also told the deputy that Jesus told her she had to do it. She said this as she lay nude inside an overflowing bathtub after the attack.
Deputy Public Defender Greg Spiering has argued in court that his client's state of mind is the key issue. He has said he believes Wills' actions were rash and a product of mental illness, not deliberate.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.