Reporting Nick Janes
PATTERSON (CBS13) – A mother found to be insane when she drowned her young daughter three years ago is now sane and has been released from jail.
Jennifer Bigham is a free woman, but she’s not free from criticism.
“It’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. I think it’s horrible; I really do,” said Nicoya Grisez, a neighbor of Bigham.
Bigham’s release was ordered by a judge just hours ago, but prosecutors and others are asking “why?”
“She should be behind bars or in a mental institution,” said a resident.
Nearly three years to the day she killed her little girl, Jennifer Bigham broke into a big smile walking out of jail.
“That’s so messed up. I don’t understand that,” said Jennifer Shahiei, Bigham’s neighbor.
Legal experts we talked to say the case is beyond bizarre. Bigham admitted to drowning her 3-year-old daughter in a bathtub in January 2010 in Patterson. Relatives found the toddler unconscious and Bigham locked in a bedroom with self-inflicted stab wounds.
The Stanislaus County DA’s office says Bigham underwent psychiatric evaluations at the time and the judge ruled her not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.
Bigham spent the last three years in a jail cell where neighbors believe she should remain.
“She does need to be somewhere where they’re watching her,” said Nicoya Grisez. “Because to do that to her own child, she shouldn’t be out in the public.”
Bigham, now 26, could’ve been sent to a mental health facility after her insanity verdict. It’s what experts say usually happens in cases like these.
The same doctors who believed Bigham was insane at the time of her toddler’s death re-examined her and testified Tuesday that her sanity is restored. But prosecutors argue there isn’t enough evidence to support that claim, and say she’s still a danger to society. But the judge disagreed and released her immediately.
Bigham can’t be re-tried for murder because of double jeopardy laws.
Prosecutors plan to appeal the ruling, arguing the judge didn’t follow proper procedure in reaching the decision. It’s a process that could take months. In the meantime, Jennifer Bigham is out of custody and in the public.