MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas – Verna McClain, the woman accused of killing a young mother outside a Woodlands-area pediatric center and abducting the victim’s 3-day-old baby, appeared shaky and confused as she made her first appearance before Judge Fred Edwards in a Montgomery County courtroom Thursday morning.
McClain, who is charged with capital murder in the shooting death of Kala Golden, has been held in the Montgomery County Jail without bond since her arrest Tuesday night.
Defense attorney E. Tay Bond said they plan to enter a plea of not guilty when McClain is formerly arraigned.
In court Thursday, McClain’s court-appointed defense attorneys asked for a delay in her bond hearing, so they could examine evidence collected by the state.
Defense attorneys said they plan to ask the judge to set bond for their client on Monday.
“It is our position that she is entitled to a reasonable bond. She does not have a great deal of assets. If the state wants to hold our client on a no-bond, they have a great burden that they will have to satisfy for the court on Monday,” Bond said. “It’s our hope on Monday that a bond is set reasonably, so Miss McClain will be allowed to return home and tend to her children.”
Bond said McClain was being held on suicide watch, and described her demeanor as “very upset.”
McClain worked as a licensed vocational nurse for Epic Health Services. The company provides pediatric care services for what it calls “medically fragile children.” The Dallas-based company said that McClain had been fired, and was not on duty on Monday, but it would not say how long McClain worked for the company.
McClain, whose hands and feet were cuffed when she entered the hearing, spoke softly when questioned by the judge and kept her eyes cast downward as she walked slowly out of the courtroom.
She told the judge she does not own a house or a car and has no savings, and said she understood she was charged with capital murder.
“Today, she seemed to be very upset, somewhat confused about the proceedings that were going on and mumbling. So she’s very upset,” Bond said.
Bond said McClain’s mental state at the time of the shooting could be the focal point of their whole case.
Though Bond said he believes the case meets the requirements for a capital murder charge, he does not believe it will be appropriate for the death penalty, because it will be difficult to prove that his client would be a future danger to society.
Bond said as far as he knows now, McClain has no prior criminal record.
District Attorney Brett Ligon described Bond and Stephen Jackson, the second defense attorney assisting on the case, as professional and diligent.
He said prosecutors will turn over all of their evidence to Bond and Jackson over the weekend and will likely accompany them to several of the scenes associated with the crime.
“As they do their job, we’ll do our job. Everyone is entitled to due process under the law. Miss McClain will get her due process as we seek capital punishment,” Ligon said.
McClain’s nephew attended her court appearance.
“I support you. It is bad, but I am still here. You got my support,” said Harold Scott.
McClain was thrust into the public eye Tuesday evening, just hours after Kala Golden was gunned down outside the Northwoods Pediatric Center.
Investigators said Golden and her 3-day-old son, Keegan Schuchardt, were leaving a doctor’s appointment when they were confronted by McClain in the parking lot.
Deputies said McClain shot Golden multiple times, grabbed Keegan and took off.
Golden was rushed to the hospital, where she died. An Amber Alert was issued for the baby.
Investigators found a car matching the description of the one used in the abduction at an apartment complex on Sawmill a few hours later. While they were searching the area, deputies said McClain approached them with information on Keegan’s whereabouts.
Texas Rangers found Keegan unharmed at a home owned by McClain’s family.
Investigators said McClain told her family she was going to adopt a baby. They believe she staked out the Northwoods Pediatric Center—where she had taken her own children in the past – looking for a woman with a baby she could kidnap.
Deputies on Wednesday said McClain recently suffered a miscarriage, and instead of telling the father – her fiancé – that she’d lost the baby, she decided to take another baby and present it to her fiancé as his child.
McClain and her fiancé were reportedly planning to marry in May.
Defense attorneys on Thursday said they had no information on whether McClain had, in fact, suffered a miscarriage, but it was something they’re looking into.
In an exclusive interview with KHOU 11 News Wednesday afternoon, McClain’s tearful mother said she was grieving for Golden’s family.
“I don’t know what’s going on – that’s not my kid,” McClain’s mother said, sobbing in the doorway of a Houston-area home. “They said my kid did it, but I can’t wrap my head around it, ‘cause that’s my baby. But I grieve for the lady and her baby.”
As news of the shooting spread through the community, nearby residents were horrified.
“I feel so, so, so terrible for the family and the baby that will never get to know his mother,” Amanda Johnson, who lives near where Keegan was found, said. “That’s really sad. I can’t imagine. I have an 8-year-old. I can’t imagine not being able to see him grow up. It’s really said.”
“Just because you can’t have a baby, there’s many people out there that can’t have babies, and they deal with it every day. It doesn’t mean you go out there and you steal one and you kill somebody to get one. It’s horrible. People don’t do that. They don’t need to do that,” Bryce Pizzonia, who lives near the Northwoods Pediatric Center, said.
“People just don’t care anymore. I do,” Lindsey Craig, another nearby resident, said. “It’s just a tragedy, and I think everyone, whether they knew them or not, should be praying for that family and for the future of that baby.”
Defense attorneys on Thursday acknowledged the public’s concern with the crime, but asked for time to let the case play out in court.
“We just want the public to sit back a little bit and let us do our job. There’s a lot that’s going to have to be done to look into Miss McClain’s mental state and see where that takes us,” Jackson said.
“It will be extremely difficult, and it always is, but that’s what we do – we battle the case,” Bond said.
McClain’s next court appearance will be at the bond hearing Monday morning.