Woman tried suicide before crashing car, police say

35-year-old being held at Perkins is charged in daughter's death

September 06, 2002|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

The 35-year-old Parkville woman accused of killing her 9-year-old daughter tried three times to kill herself and her only child Monday - first by trying to cause several gas explosions at their house before deliberately driving her car into a tree, according to court documents released yesterday.

Alana Anne Dieter died Tuesday at Johns Hopkins Hospital of injuries she suffered in the crash, the day she was supposed to start the fourth grade at Immaculate Heart of Mary School.

Her mother, Lisa A. Dieter, who survived the crash, was released yesterday from Hopkins, where Baltimore County police had been guarding her for more than two days as they waited to arrest her on a first-degree murder warrant.

Dieter appeared at her bail hearing before a District Court Commissioner wearing a hospital gown. She used a walker and was aided by several of her attorneys. She was ordered held without bail yesterday and was sent to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, a state mental hospital.

"I was trying to kill all three of us," Dieter told police, according to the documents, referring to herself, her daughter and the family dog, Tabitha, which was also in the car when she hit a tree at Double Rock Park in Parkville.

Dieter allowed her daughter to take off her seat belt while they were driving through the park, according to the documents. "Lisa said her daughter asked why she was driving so fast and she responded telling her it was like a roller coaster," police wrote in the document.

Dieter's attempts to kill herself and her daughter began about 1 a.m. Monday when she turned on one of the burners on her stove, allowed the gas to fill the house and then "attempted to cause an explosion by lighting a cigarette lighter," according to the documents.

When that didn't work, Dieter tried again about 3:30 a.m., according to the documents, this time allowing the gas to fill the white cottage in the 7800 block of Bagley Ave. for about four hours before trying repeatedly to ignite the leaking gas.

When Alana woke up that morning, she asked to go to the park, according to the documents. It was then, police said Dieter told them, that Dieter decided to crash the car. She even used a blanket to cover the back seat so her daughter wouldn't use the seat belt, according to the documents. But Alana climbed into the front seat instead. The family dog, a black German shepherd survived the crash.

Police also noted in court papers that, in addition to Dieter's statements, they had recovered physical evidence to suggest the crash was no accident.

Police said they found no skid marks to indicate Dieter had tried to stop her 1992 Buick Century before hitting the tree in a part of the park near the 8200 block of Glen Road at about 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Police offered no clues about why Dieter, who divorced nearly two years ago, might have wanted to kill herself and her daughter. Dieter's lawyers declined to discuss the case yesterday. She is represented by the Towson firm of Irwin, Green, Dexter and Murtha.

"It's such a catastrophic family tragedy," said lawyer Joseph Murtha. "There aren't adequate words to describe the family's grief and sorrow. At this time, they're also very supportive of Lisa as she goes through this tragic and unfortunate experience."

After being released from Hopkins, Dieter was taken by police to Perkins, the county's jail administrator said.

Maryland's only maximum-security hospital, Perkins houses offenders found not criminally responsible for crimes by reason of insanity, or those who cannot stand trial because they are not mentally competent. The 220-bed hospital also serves as a pretrial center for defendants who need psychiatric evaluation or treatment.

A funeral Mass for Alana Dieter will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 8501 Loch Raven Blvd.

A private wake is scheduled for 8:30 tonight at the Miller-Dippel Funeral home at 6415 Belair Road in Overlea, after visitation from 3 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. today. The family has asked that contributions to be made to the Alana Dieter Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Immaculate Heart of Mary School.

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