California woman arrested in fatal stabbing of toddler granddaughter

A California woman arrested Tuesday in the stabbing death of her 18-month-old granddaughter had a lengthy history of mental illness and became distraught late last year when she was separated from her young, special needs son, her relatives said.

Nicole Darrington-Clark, 43, was arrested a day after authorities said she stabbed her daughter and two young granddaughters at their home, killing one of them, then fleeing the grisly scene.

She was found in nearby San Bernardino and is being held on $1 million bail, police said.

Darrington-Clark has a history of mental health issues and was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2005 attempted murder of her own children and sent to a state psychiatric hospital.

Her sister, LaShunda Clark, and father, Samuel Clark, said they were concerned about her well-being since her release but said she had seemed to improve before becoming distraught late last year when she was separated from her special needs son, who is now 5.

Since then, she had returned to live with her husband and son in Riverside County and had gone to visit her now-grown daughter and granddaughters Monday in Colton, her sister said, adding she did not know what triggered the attack.

"None of us has slept in the last two days. It has been terrible for our family," LaShunda Clark said. "It was never anything about her trying to hurt us. I just don't understand. We don't know. We're just asking God to just keep her safe."

The San Bernardino County coroner's division identified the girl killed as 18-month old Damani Trouter. The two wounded victims are hospitalized in stable condition.

Investigators do not know the motive for the attack, police Cpl. Ray Mendez said Monday. Police did not return calls seeking additional information.

Social services officials declined to comment in Riverside County, where LaShunda Clark said her sister had recently returned to live with her husband and young son.

It wasn't immediately clear when or why Darrington-Clark was released from the hospital.

In the earlier case, she pleaded guilty to stabbing her 14-year-old son and throwing her 10-year-old daughter out of a moving minivan in 2005. But a judge found Darrington-Clark not guilty by reason of insanity and sent her to a psychiatric hospital.

Attorney Robert Sheahen, who represented her at that time, said she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and that Los Angeles County prosecutors had agreed with the judge's decision.

"This is one of the greatest sadnesses I've ever encountered in my 40-year career," he said Tuesday.

A spokesman at the California Department of State Hospitals said officials can't comment on individual cases.

At the apartment complex in Colton, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, neighbor Tim Hill told the Press-Enterprise newspaper the wounded woman ran into his apartment Monday seeking help after the attack.

He said he ran upstairs to her apartment and saw the stabbed child and found her sister in the closet, shaking. Police decided they couldn't wait for paramedics and took the girl to the hospital, Hill said.

Another neighbor, Patty Williams, told the newspaper that the wounded woman had been "stabbed everywhere."

"I'm sad," Williams said. "I feel like my soul left my body because this is disgusting."

© 2017 Associated Press


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