CHARLESTON (JG-TC) -- A local woman who is charged with first-degree murder regarding the death of her 2-year-old son has been found mentally fit to stand trial.
Savannah M. Weiss, 22, of Charleston was found mentally fit by Circuit Judge Brien O'Brien during a status hearing Monday morning. This finding was based on a psychological evaluation that had been requested by public defender Anthony Ortega in early January without objection from Coles County State's Attorney's Brian Bower.
Weiss' alleged neglect of her 2-year-old son led to his death from starvation or dehydration, according to authorities. Weiss was arrested after the boy was found dead on Dec. 4 at her residence at 1052 First St., Charleston. 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.
The objective of the psychological evaluation was to determine if Weiss is mentally fit to be tried on the charges against her, first-degree murder. Specifically, the evaluation addressed whether she is able to understand the charges and help with her defense. It's not the same as an insanity defense and does not address whether or not she's guilty.
The next status hearing for Weiss, who has pleaded not guilty, is scheduled for April 9. Weiss remains jailed with her bond set at a level that would require $150,000 to be posted for her release.
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 claimed 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 allege that she knew or should have known that created a "strong possibility" of death or great harm to the boy. She could receive life in prison if convicted.