Lisa A. Dieter pleaded guilty to first-degree murder yesterday in the death of her 9-year-old daughter in September by driving her 1992 Buick Century into an oak tree. Police said Dieter told them she had also planned to kill herself and the family dog in the car wreck.
The Baltimore County state's attorney's office agreed with defense attorneys that Dieter, 35, should not be held criminally responsible for the homicide. She will remain in the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, a state mental hospital.
"Well, I do find the defendant guilty," said Baltimore County Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl, after Assistant State's Attorney Steve Rocher read the facts of the case. Kahl then said he agreed that Dieter, who appeared gaunt and spoke in a tiny voice at the hearing, should not be held criminally responsible.
Dieter's tearful family filled one side of the courtroom, but declined comment after the hearing.
The crash that killed Alana Anne Dieter, who was about to start fourth grade at Immaculate Heart of Mary School, shocked the family's Parkville community. Dozens held vigil at the oak tree in Double Rock Park after the crash, all asking why.
The answer appears to revolve around depression. Dieter, who is in the care of psychiatrists and on the antidepressant Zoloft, tried to kill herself and her daughter at least twice the night before the crash, according to police reports. She twice turned on the gas stove burners in her Bagley Avenue home, then used a cigarette lighter to try to cause an explosion, police said.
When those attempts did not work, Dieter decided to crash the car, according to court papers. According to police reports, Dieter told her daughter to take off her seat belt as the car neared the tree.
Yesterday, the judge asked Dieter whether she wanted to say anything. Dieter shook her head and continued to stare down at the defense table.