BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - The Middletown mother and her boyfriend who are charged in the death of her 6-year-old son and throwing his body in the Ohio River returned to court for a brief hearing Monday.
Brittany Gosney, 29, and James Hamilton, 43, face a combined 31-count indictment in connection with the slaying of first-grader James Hutchinson.
Both initially pleaded not guilty, but now Gosney plans to pursue the insanity defense. Her lawyer filed paperwork seeking to change her plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.
Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Noah Powers ordered Gosney to undergo a psychological examination. Her cooperation is required for her competency hearing on April 22.
“We would like to have her tested and evaluated for her competency and sanity at the time of the commission of the offense,” Judge Powers announced Monday.
Gosney “struggles to assist in her defense and counsel has serious concerns regarding (her) mental health,” her lawyer, David Washington Jr., wrote in a motion filed last week.
She also told a judge in Middletown Municipal Court during her initial arraignment in the case on March 1 that she has a learning disability and didn’t understand what he was saying.
Competency and not guilty by insanity are two different things. To help break down the differences, FOX19 NOW reached out to legal expert Mike Allen.
“When a lawyer files a suggestion of incompetency, that’s telling the court that, ‘hey, I don’t think my client understands the nature of the proceedings, my client doesn’t understand what my job is, what your job is judge, what the prosecutor’s job is,” Allen explained.
When an attorney files a not guilty by insanity plea, there’s a large quantity of evidence the defense has to show.
“She did not know the difference between right or wrong because of some mental defect or organic mental problems,” Allen says. “That’s what they have to demonstrate and that’s a very hard burden.”
While it is hard for Allen to say if Gosney will succeed in her filing, he does say it is not an easy task.
“Almost never succeeds, but in a situation like this it may be appropriate, but boy is it an uphill battle,” Allen says.
Hamilton’s lawyer said Monday he plans to file motions soon on his behalf.
Hamilton is scheduled to return to court for a pretrial on April 12.
Middletown police have said Gosney confessed to killing her son about 3 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27 as he tried to get back into her minivan when she abandoned him and his two siblings, 9 and 7, at Rush Run Wild Life Area in Preble County.
According to a report from the Preble County Sheriff’s Office, Gosney “slammed the gas.” James was dragged for a distance and was run over, investigators said.
Middletown detectives say she told them James was dead when she turned the minivan around to check on him about 30 to 40 minutes later.
She put all three of the children in the van and returned to their Middletown home, where she and Hamilton put Hutchinson’s body in a spare room, authorities say.
They drove down Interstate 275 in the van to the Lawrenceburg, Indiana, area and threw the body into the Ohio River, Middletown police have said.
They reported the boy missing the morning of Sunday, Feb., 28, but Middletown police say discrepancies in their stories followed by Gosney’s statements led to the couple’s arrest.
According to the Preble County Sheriff’s Office report, Gosney told investigators she was under pressure from her boyfriend to get rid of Hutchinson and his siblings.
She is facing charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter and multiple counts of endangering children, gross abuse of a corpse, kidnapping, and abduction.
Hamilton was also indicted for kidnapping, abduction, endangering children, tampering with evidence, and gross abuse of a corpse.
Gosney is held in lieu of a $2 million bond at the Butler County Jail.
Hamilton’s bond is $750,000.
Their tentative trial date is May 24.
Searchers are still trying to find James’ body in the Ohio River.
Divers were last in the Ohio River last week as they continue trying to recover James and another small child killed and put into the river, 3-year-old Nylo Lattimore.
Sonar imaging indicated there was a high degree of confidence there was a body below in an area of the water in Lawrenceburg, where James was put into the water, according to Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser.
Search operations concluded Wednesday night with neither boy located, Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson said.
The rapidly moving water made conditions difficult and was still an issue over the weekend.
It’s not clear when the search will resume.
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