Fairfax Co. mother weighs insanity defense in shooting deaths of 2 daughters

The public defender for Veronica Youngblood — charged with murder in the 2018 shooting deaths of her two daughters — said she is contemplating an insanity defense.

Youngblood allegedly shot her daughters, 5-year-old Brooklynn and 15-year-old Sharon, in their McLean, Virginia, apartment in August 2018. She was indicted in May.

Her attorney, Dawn Butorac, has argued her client’s “Constitutional rights would be trampled upon” if a Fairfax County judge doesn’t approve, and pay for, a mental health evaluation by a doctor experienced in patients with a history of trauma.

Youngblood sat quietly at the defense table in circuit court during a status hearing Tuesday, listening to a Spanish translation of the proceedings before Judge Bruce White.

White had previously denied Butorac’s request to pay for the defense to be able to hire clinical psychologist Michael Hendricks as an expert witness to evaluate Youngblood.

During the hearing, Butorac told the judge she had recently contacted 48 doctors and that “none had the appropriate experience” for Youngblood’s case.

Butorac said her client had a long history of mental health issues, as well as suicide attempts and “a trauma background.” She said some of the doctors willing to consider evaluating her client had never testified as an expert in a murder trial.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney George Freeman opposed the request for the court to subsidize the defense’s search for an expert, saying every doctor on Butorac’s list had been approved by the commission that lists mental health experts.

“This case is different,” Butorac said, countering. “Ms. Youngblood is looking at spending the rest of her life in prison, two times over.”

Butorac said her client’s poverty should not preclude her from having a vigorous defense.

“Her Constitutional rights will be trampled on if the court forces us to use a doctor without the appropriate experience in this high-stakes case,” Butorac said.

White said he would rule on the defense motion in the near future.

In addition, Butorac asked the judge to delay the scheduled Nov. 4 trial date, saying “there’s not sufficient time” to process evidence, “and I’d need 60 days for an NGRI [not guilty by reason of insanity] defense.”

Without objection from prosecutors, the judge agreed to delay the Nov. 4 trial date but didn’t immediately set a new one.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein reported from Fairfax, Virginia.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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