Chicago woman accused in Iowa sister’s stabbing death not guilty due to insanity, judge rules

Leisha McDuffy, 33, of Chicago, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2017 stabbing death of her sister, Lakeisha McDuffy. (Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

A Chicago woman whom prosecutors say fatally stabbed her sister while visiting Iowa in 2017 was found not guilty on reason of insanity last week and will undergo a complete psychiatric evaluation that will determine if she is fit to be released back into public life.

Leisha McDuffy, 33, of Chicago entered her then 30-year-old sister Lakeisha McDuffy’s bedroom in another relative’s Des Moines apartment on Sept. 10, 2017, and stabbed the sister multiple times in front of her children, authorities have said. A wound to the victim’s chest punctured her heart.

A medical examiner also found seven stab wounds to the upper right back and two wounds to the upper right arm, determining “Lakeisha died from multiple sharp force trauma,” WOI-DT reported, citing court documents.

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Last week, Polk County Judge Jeffrey Farrell found McDuffy not guilty of first-degree murder by reason of insanity after mental health experts reported that she showed symptoms of severe schizophrenia disorder. Both sides in the case hired psychiatrists to evaluate the defendant.

In 2018, District Judge Heather Lauber originally found McDuffy incompetent to stand trial and “a danger to public health and safety.” McDuffy was committed to the custody of the Iowa Department of Corrections to receive treatment until she was restored to the mental competency required to appear before the court, the Des Moines Register reported.

“Based on the reports from each parties’ expert witness, and the evidence in support of their opinions, the court concludes that defendant has met her burden of proving the insanity defense,” Farrell wrote in last week’s ruling.

Dr. Steven Bruce, who was hired by the defense, examined McDuffy twice — once in December 2017 and again in January 2019. “He stated defendant’s primary mental health diagnosis was severe schizophrenia disorder,” the ruling said.

Schizophrenia is “diagnosed after a patient shows at least two of the following five symptoms”: Delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behavior and negative symptoms,” the ruling explained.

Bruce identified three of the five in McDuffy: delusions, hallucinations and disorganized speech. A second psychiatrist hired by prosecutors, Dr. Tracy Thomas, observed all five symptoms of the mental disorder during a February 2019 evaluation.

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McDuffy will receive a complete psychiatric evaluation at Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale to provide the court with insight on whether she is mentally ill and dangerous to herself and others. The report must be returned to the court within 15 days of admission.

“If, upon hearing, the court finds that the defendant is not mentally ill and no longer dangerous to the defendant’s self or to others, the court shall order the defendant release,” Iowa’s Chapter 2 Rules of Criminal Procedure states.

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