A woman who apparently blamed herself for the condition of her handicapped daughter shot the 4-year-old in the head, then lay down with the child on the Garden Grove Freeway where they were struck by a car and later found dead, police said Tuesday.
Family members said Stacy Phan, 32, of Garden Grove blamed herself for her child’s blindness and mental retardation. The child was handicapped since birth. Phan had spoken of suicide in recent months, but her warnings were ignored, police said.
“We are handling it strictly as a murder-suicide,” Sgt. Douglas Morrill said. “There was no note, but over the past three months she had told family members that she was contemplating suicide and that she was going to take her daughter with her. . . . That night, she said she was going to commit suicide but nobody took her seriously.”
The incident marked the second time in recent weeks that an Orange County child has died, allegedly at the hands of a distraught parent.
In a hearing Tuesday, a Laguna Niguel homemaker accused of fatally shooting her two young daughters pleaded not guilty to the charges filed in that case. Kristine Marie Cushing, 39, her head bowed, mumbled a barely audible “Not guilty” when asked how she pleaded to first-degree murder charges in the deaths of her daughters, Amy Elizabeth, 8, and Stephanie Marie, 4, on Oct. 13.
Cushing allegedly used a .38-caliber handgun to shoot her daughters in the head in the master bedroom of their home before turning the weapon on herself. She suffered a graze wound to the head, and moments later called 911 to report what had happened, authorities said.
In this week’s incident, the mother and child were found dead at 11:48 p.m. Monday when authorities arrived on the Garden Grove Freeway, 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
It wasn’t immediately known if the girl, Dianna, died from the .22-caliber gunshot wound or as a result of being struck by the vehicle.
The woman’s husband, David Phan, 41, a machine operator, was asleep at the time of the incident. However, he woke up and called police after he was unable to find his wife and daughter and became concerned.
Police believe Stacy Phan left her house and drove to nearby Westhaven Park. She apparently shot her daughter at the park, then drove six miles to the freeway and parked about 150 feet west of the Springdale Street overpass.
“The car was parked near the bodies and the woman’s keys, purse and weapon were inside the car,” said Morrill. “The engine was still hot when the California Highway Patrol discovered the bodies. They believe the vehicle struck them moments earlier.”
The driver of the vehicle didn’t stop after hitting the pair and Morrill said the motorist may not be aware that the vehicle struck people.
Police, who were called to the park by city maintenance crews, found a pool of blood and .22-caliber shells near a fountain.
After Tuesday’s hearing in the Cushing case, the woman’s lawyers announced that they are investigating whether her use of the anti-depressant drug Prozac played a role in those killings.
Michael J. Cassidy said his client was under psychiatric care and for three to five months prior to the killings had been taking Prozac--a drug blamed in other cases for causing violent behavior.
The drug’s manufacturer, Eli Lilly & Co. of Indianapolis, has defended its safety, blaming negative publicity about the medication on an anti-psychiatry campaign by the Church of Scientology.
Times staff writer Davan Maharaj contributed to this story.