It was around 5AM on the 26th of July, 2009, when San Antonio, Texas, police received an extremely distressing phone call from a woman who said that her sister had murdered her own son. Police rushed to the scene at Wayside Drive and were met by a bloodbath. Inside, they discovered the dismembered body of a 3-and-a-half-week-old baby boy named Scott Wesley Buchholz-Sanchez. The gruesome scene left even the most hardened officers shaken. Not only had Scott been dismembered, part of his brain had been cannibalized.
The infant’s mother was identified as 33-year-old Otty Sanchez, a former home health care worker. At the crime scene, she had told officers that the devil had made her kill, mutilate and cannibalise parts of her only child. She had brutally murdered her son with a steak knife and two samurai swords as her sister and her two young nieces slept in the same house. Afterwards, she had stabbed herself in the stomach and sliced her own throat. She was rushed to hospital where she survived her injuries. She was charged with capital murder and held on $1 million bond.
As it would soon be discovered, there were numerous warnings signs that something tragic was going to unfold. Otty had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and postpartum psychosis. She had an extensive history of hospitalizations. Moreover, she hadn’t been taking her medication following the birth of her son. Postpartum psychosis can cause hallucinations and delusional thoughts. Despite this, Otty was staying in a home where she had access to samurai swords.
In May of 2008, Otty’s mother, Manuela Sanchez, called police after her daughter did not return home from a trip to Austin. Manuela informed police that she suspected that her daughter was taking drugs. According to her aunt, Gloria Sanchez, Otty had been in and out of a psychiatric ward. Otty had been in Austin to see an acupuncturist for her hallucinations. However, instead of coming home when expected, she stopped in a pharmacy and spent hours there after voices told her to. Employees called police and Otty was taken to Austin State Hospital where she was diagnosed with schizophrenia.1
While on medication, the voices inside Otty’s head diminished. However, Otty had been unable to afford the medication and was forced to stop taking it. Shortly after coming off the medication, Otty fell pregnant. During her pregnancy, she went to a counsellor for depression but refused to go on any further mediation. Tragically, after the birth of her son she slipped further into depression and the voices inside her head returned.
Then on the 20th of July of 2009, Otty went to hospital and informed staff that she was hallucinating and having bad thoughts. They determined that she was having a severe mental breakdown and sent her to an emergency room which subsequently released her the same day. When she came home, she told her boyfriend, Scott Buchholtz, that she was suffering mentally and was going back home to live with her parents and sister which was where the murder had occurred.
During the pregnancy and for the first two weeks of Scott Jr.’s life, Otty and Scott had lived together. Scott had met Otty around six years prior. He said that he knew that she had postpartum depression, he didn’t believe that she was unstable. He additionally said that Otty had been attending regular counselling sessions following the birth of Scott but said that she had refused to take prescription medication for depression. “She seemed like a very caring, loving mother. She held him, she breast fed him. She did everything for him that was nice,” he said.2
Four days before the murder, Otty brought Scott Jr. over to Scott’s house so that the father and son could bond. However, Otty became irate and stormed out of the house after Scott had asked her for a birth certificate and other documents. After she left, Scott called police to report that Otty had sped away from his home without properly restraining Scott Jr. in the car. Police had investigated the call as a disturbance. They took a report but did little all else. According to Bexar County Sheriff Chief Deputy Dale Bennett: “If this guy had given us an indication that she had postpartum depression or mental defects she was suffering from, we may have addressed it differently.”3
Following Otty’s arrest, she said that she had been hearing voices and believed that the murder of “Baby Scotty” was necessary to prevent an apocalypse.
In July of 2010, Otty Sanchez was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was ordered to stay at a maximum-security mental facility for an indefinite period of time. Defence attorney, Ed Camara, had provided reports from three separate psychiatrists who determined that Otty was legally insane. Prosecutors refused to contest the findings indicating that they had agreed.
In the interviews with psychiatrists, Otty had told them that she first took drugs in 2006 and this was when she first started hearing voices. When she went to Austin, she believed that she was there to track down a non-existent former boyfriend named “Victor.” She said that in the days leading up to Scott’s murder, she was paranoid and feared that people were spying on her and plotting to kidnap her son. As the days passed, her paranoia escalated and the voices became louder and louder. For days, the voices told Otty that the devil was inside her son; she avoided looking into his eyes “out of fear of seeing the devil.”
In further interviews, Otty said that the voices had told her that her mother had killed President John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe and that the KKK was angry at her mother for killing JFK. She stated: “The voices told me to hurt Scotty… He was going to be the apocalypse. The voices told me to eat his insides, I was a harlot because I had committed adultery… there was a demon in my stomach.” She explained that the demons would come out of her stomach if she ate Scott at 5AM in the morning. She believed that if she killed and ate Scott, he would “evolve.”
For Otty to be found legally insane, the judge had to agree with the psychologists’ determination that she could not tell wrong from right at the time of Scott’s murder. After just five minutes of reviewing their reports in his chambers, he reached the conclusion that he agreed. As Otty was led out of court, Scott Sr. said: “Bye Otty.” She replied with: “Bye. I love you.” Outside of court, Otty’s mother, Manuela, said that she was glad that her daughter had been given a second chance at life. “I’m sorry my grandson didn’t get that chance…”
The verdict meant that Otty’s case would be reviewed annually by a judge to determine if and when she can be released. Mental competency was always an issue that the prosecution had been considered. AS District Attorney Susan Reed said: “It is a horrendous, horrific offence. But there is no question of Sanchez’s mental state. Like people say, you’d have to be insane to do what this woman did…”
- San Antonio Express-News, 2 July, 2010 – “Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity”
- The Commercial Appeal, 29 July, 2009 – “Distraught Mother Charged After Gruesome Murder of Only Child”
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 29 July, 2009 – “Warning Signs Missed”