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Emotional testimony at murder trial of woman police say admitted smothering her daughters

Capital murder trial begins for Irving mother accused of killing daughters
Capital murder trial begins for Irving mother accused of killing daughters 03:07

The capital murder trial is underway of a Dallas-area mother police say admitted killing her daughters two years ago. 

Madison McDonald  Dallas County Jail

CBS Texas' Annie Gimbel and Robbie Owens report that Madison McDonald is facing two capital murder charges in the deaths of 1-year-old Lillian Mae McDonald and 6-year-old Archer Hammond.

Police in Irving, Texas, say that, in April 2021, McDonald walked into the lobby of their headquarters, then called and said she'd sedated her daughters, tucked them into bed and smothered them.

A spokesperson for the department, Robert Reeves, told CBS Texas that McDonald's demeanor was "calm" as she alleged her children were "being abused" and she would do anything to protect her daughters, including "eliminating them."

Day two of testimony turned emotional Thursday when the girls' fathers took the stand.

"I remember the time I got the call very early Monday morning from her mother ... telling me that she'd killed the girls," said Archer's father, Tim Hammond.

Hammond told jurors he believed the then 30-year-old mother of his children was "a good mom" and that he never worried about Archer's safety while he was with her. 

Then in the fall of 2020, McDonald was involuntarily hospitalized to receive treatment for her mental health struggles. Hammond testified that he began to notice that she was becoming more paranoid and began to claim that the girls were being abused. 

Police and Child Protective Services investigated but never substantiated those claims. 

McDonald also made accusations against Lillian's father, Christopher McDonald, who told jurors that when the pandemic hit, his relationship with his child's mother was strained as she acted more delusional.

"I was accused of sexually assaulting her in the middle of the night; crawling through the ceiling or something," said McDonald. "She was making accusations against her mom, Archer's dad ... lots of stuff." 

Defense attorneys are blaming mental illness for the children's deaths. McDonald has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

But CBS Texas reports that prosecutors say anger over a failed marriage might have played a role.

According to prosecutors, just before the murders, Madison and Christopher were going through a seemingly amicable divorce, one Madison had asked for, but then she changed her mind and became very jealous and wanted to know whether Chris was talking to other women. Prosecutors seemed very focused on that unraveling relationship in their questioning.

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