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Morrison teen accused of murder seeks $15,000 for psychological evaluation

Prosecution willing to pay for an expert, not for a 'Cadillac'

Editor’s note: Although it is not illegal to do so, in general, it is the policy of Sauk Valley Media not to report the names of juvenile defendants. In this case, however, SVM is publishing their names because of the severity of the crimes.

STERLING – Prosecutors are balking at a request by the attorney for the 15-year-old Morrison teen accused of fatally shooting her mother, who is asking the state to pay a $15,000 retainer for a psychological evaluation.

Anna Schroeder is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, concealment of homicidal death and arson in the July 6 death of her mother, Peggy S. Schroeder, 53. Investigators say Schroeder shot her mother in the head at their home at 805 W. Park St. in Morrison, then she and a girlfriend spent a day trying to clean up before they set the house on fire July 8 to conceal the crime.

Her attorney, Jim Mertes of Sterling, filed a motion Oct. 24 seeking to have the state pay for the services of Dr. Stevan Weine, a psychiatrist, researcher and professor with the University of Illinois Chicago School of Medicine.

Weine’s work focuses, among other things, on PTSD and trauma in refugees of armed conflict, and he also has a background in childhood trauma and its effects on adolescents.

His qualifications, education, experience and background are necessary given “the tremendous complexity and magnitude of this case” and the state’s desire to transfer it to adult court, Mertes told Judge Trish Joyce at a hearing Monday morning in Whiteside County Court.

The fee, which Mertes called “substantial, but entirely reasonable,” takes into account not only Weine’s expertise and the time it will take to interview Schroeder and others relevant, but also the time it will take to write up the report and to travel between Chicago and the Mary Davis Detention Home in Galesburg, where the teens are being held.

Whiteside County State’s Attorney Terry Costello and Assistant State’s Attorney Carol Linkowski are not refusing to pay for an evaluation, but are saying Weine’s fee is too high, and that another equally qualified expert could be found closer to home for less money.

In fact, they found nothing in Weine’s background “that makes him uniquely qualified” to do Schroeder’s evaluation, Linkowski said.

“To argue that we can only get an expert from Chicago ... is not a reasonable use of the taxpayers’ money,” she said.

They had no suggestions for an alternative Monday, but said they will compile a list to be presented when the hearing resumes at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 21.

Mertes called the prosecution’s assertion that there are other equally qualified experts available in this instance “rampant conjecture,” and noted the “considerable expense” the county is saving in its prosecution of Schroeder because he was hired, and not appointed, to represent her.

Schroeder does have some money in a trust account at US Bank that can be used for medical expenses, but it is not clear whether that undisclosed amount also can be used to help pay her legal fees, or if a psychological evaluation for this purpose would be considered a medical expense, Mertes said.

Otherwise, that fund is not available to her until she turns 18, and in the meantime, she is indigent, he said.

Joyce said she cannot rule on Mertes’ request without specific information on Schroeder’s financial situation, and how much, if any, money is available to her.

Mertes agreed to subpoena US Bank trust adviser Shelia Martinez, who oversees the trust, and she will be asked to testify to its terms at the Nov. 21 hearing.

“If [Schroeder’s] truly indigent, the state is not opposed to paying something,” Costello said, “but when she’s asking the state to pay for her expert, she doesn’t always get a Cadillac.”

Schroeder’s co-defendant, Rachel Helm, 15, of Rock Falls, is charged with arson, which is punishable by 3 to 7 years in a juvenile detention center; and concealment of homicidal death, which carries 2 to 5 years.

Citing the volume of evidence still being submitted, her attorney, Michael Lancaster of Sterling, recently asked the court to delay a hearing, also set for Nov. 21, to determine whether Helm will be tried as an adult.

That 10:30 a.m. hearing has been changed to a pretrial conference.

If convicted of murder as a minor, Schroeder could serve until she is 21. A transfer hearing in her case has yet to be set.

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