By JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press
CONROE, Texas (AP) — Bloody jeans and a handgun believed to be the murder weapon were found in the apartment of a Texas woman accused of kidnapping a newborn boy after fatally shooting his mother, authorities said at a Monday hearing.
Verna McClain, who is accused of shooting Kala Golden outside a suburban Houston pediatric center last week and abducting her 3-day-old son, will remain jailed after a judge denied her bond at the hearing. The boy was later found safe. Investigators believe McClain was desperate for a baby after suffering a miscarriage, and her attorneys have said they planned to review her mental state.
"This was a cold calculated murder, not only meant to deprive Kala Golden of her life but to abduct her child," Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said during the 1½ hour bond hearing.
A detective who testified at the hearing said McClain initially told investigators she had found the baby after it had been left on her doorstep. But authorities say she later confessed.
Defense attorney E. Tay Bond had asked for a bond of $100,000 or less for the 30-year-old nurse, arguing she has no prior criminal history and that witnesses have not positively identified her as being at the shooting scene.
"We of course disagree with (the judge's ruling). We believe she has a constitutional right to a bond," the attorney said after the hearing.
But state District Judge Fred Edwards ruled preliminary evidence supported authorities' claims that McClain was responsible for "the violent death of a young mother" and justified her being held without bond.
Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Det. John Schmitt had testified that authorities found the jeans and handgun as well as a cell phone and a towel with blood on them in McClain's apartment. The Lexus that witnesses said sped away from the shooting with the infant also was found in front of the apartment. Inside the vehicle, investigators recovered a shell casing similar to ones found at the shooting scene and blood was found on the driver's side door.
McClain did not speak during the hearing. She kept looking down at the floor as she rocked back and forth in her chair and tapped her leg up and down. Bond said McClain continues to mumble and be visibly upset, as she was at a hearing last week.
Her "mental evaluations will be forthcoming," he said.
McClain faces a capital murder charge, which could carry a death sentence. Ligon said his office hasn't decided whether to seek the death penalty. Her attorneys have said she intends to plead not guilty.
The shooting happened last Tuesday outside the Northwoods Pediatric Center in Spring, about 25 miles north of Houston, where McClain had taken her three children for checkups. Investigators believe Golden was randomly targeted.
Authorities said 28-year-old Golden was placing her son, Keegan Schuchardt, into her pickup truck when McClain repeatedly shot her, snatched the child and sped off. Golden died at a hospital. But she was first able to give a description of who had shot her and taken her son, Schmitt testified.
After the Lexus was found at a nearby apartment complex, SWAT officers entered McClain's apartment but found no one inside. Schmitt said McClain then approached investigators at the scene, telling them the Lexus was her sister's and she had driven it earlier. McClain later became a suspect when her story kept changing after being asked if she knew where the infant was, Schmitt said.
The infant was found safe with McClain's sister and after McClain was confronted with this, she told investigators that "after returning to the apartment with the Lexus (after running errands), she ... located the baby on the front steps and took the baby" to her sister's house, Schmitt said.
McClain's sister told authorities that McClain informed her she planned to adopt the boy. Investigators said McClain had told her fiance she'd given birth to their child.
McClain was a vocational nurse and had been working for Epic Health Services, a Dallas-based company that provides private duty nursing services for medically fragile children and adults facing chronic illness or catastrophic injuries.