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September 5, 2012

Mother pleads insanity in child's drowning in Patterson

A 25-year-old mother accused of murder in the drowning of her 3-year-old daughter in Patterson two years ago has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

A 25-year-old mother accused of murder in the drowning of her 3-year-old daughter in Patterson two years ago has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Now, it's up to the court to determine whether Jennifer Lynn Bigham was suffering from mental illness when her daughter, Alexandrea Bigham, was found in a bathtub underwater. Authorities tried to resuscitate her, but the girl died at a Modesto hospital about four hours later.

Bigham has been in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail since Jan. 15, 2010. Her case has not reached the preliminary hearing phase, when a judge determines whether there is enough evidence to proceed to a trial.

The defendant appeared briefly in court Wednesday morning for a hearing. Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff said he has received reports about Bigham's mental health condition from two doctors.

The judge scheduled Bigham to return to court Oct. 3, when he will receive another report from the doctors who will evaluate Bigham and determine "whether she still suffers from mental illness."

It's unclear whether the judge will make a final ruling on the matter next month.

The child was found in the bathtub Jan. 14, 2010, at a home in the 400 block of Thrush Drive in Patterson. 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 booked at the jail.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394.

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