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Judge declares woman who killed child at UNC-CH insane, dismisses charges

Posted February 24, 2020 2:53 p.m. EST
Updated February 24, 2020 7:30 p.m. EST

— A woman won't face criminal charges in the 2017 stabbing death of her 5-year-old son and attack on her husband after a judge declared her legally insane on Monday.

Ebony Olowu had been charged with murder, attempted murder, felony child abuse and assault in the Aug. 20, 2017, incident at the Baity Hill family housing community on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

In 911 calls, Olowu’s husband said she stabbed him multiple times in the face while he was sleeping.

Police found a large kitchen knife inside the entrance of the family’s apartment and found the boy, Israel, dead on the living room floor. He had been stabbed seven times in the back.

Mental health experts testified during a court hearing that Olowu couldn't understand her actions because of long-term depression and a psychosis that followed a miscarriage, her second, in July 2017.

“She experiences God telling her that the end days are at hand and that the antichrist has arrived, that the world is essentially full of evil," said George Corvin, a forensic psychiatrist in Raleigh. "God tells her that she and Israel and [her husband] Victor are angels and that it is time for them to come to heaven. But they have to die to go to heaven."

"She saw herself as saving herself and her family members at that time," agreed Matthew McNally, a psychologist at Central Regional Hospital in Butner. "I believe she did not know nature, quality or wrongfulness at the time of the offenses."

Corvin said Olowu also tried to kill herself that night.

"In the short term, my concern is for her safety," he said, noting that she needs to remain on suicide watch even though she has improved with treatment. "She has a very serious illness."

Olowu wept in court as the events of that night more than two years ago were recounted.

"Ebony’s entire existence was being a mom. It’s all she ever wanted was to be a mom," public defender Dana Graves said. "She would never have hurt [her son] intentionally."

Superior Court Judge Joe Craig ordered that Olowu be committed to a state psychiatric hospital for treatment. She wouldn't be released unless she came back to a court and a judge determined her health had improved and she no longer posed a threat to herself or others.

"There is nothing worse that a parent can endure than a loss of a child," said Craig, whose son died at age 24. "My heart goes out to everyone, Ms. Olowu, Mr. Olowu, the grandparents, the sister. It’s a terrible, terrible situation."

Olowu's husband, father and sister, who were in the courtroom, all supported the judge's decision, as did the prosecutor.

"Our responsibility is to seek justice, not necessarily to seek convictions," Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman said after the hearing. "It’s to seek a just outcome, and given that the unanimous opinion of the psychiatric experts was that she was legally insane at the time of the offense, there really wasn’t an argument to be made contrary to those opinions."

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