A week after Deanna "Dee" Laney bludgeoned to death two of her sons, ages 8 and 6, in her front yard in the middle of the night, stunned relatives, neighbors, and fellow church members in and around Tyler, Texas, were still wondering why. Her 14-month-old son had been found in his crib that Friday night of Mother's Day weekend, his skull bashed in, and he was in critical condition in a Dallas hospital.
No one had answers. Neighbors and friends said there was no hint anything was wrong: They described her as a "quiet," "wonderful," and "normal" mother and "devoted wife" who homeschooled her children and loved her family and church. She was a vocalist, choir member, and volunteer worker at 250-member First Assembly of God in Tyler.
A secretary at the church told WORLD that the pastor, Rev. Gary Bell, who also is Mrs. Laney's brother-in-law, is under a court gag order as a potential witness in the upcoming trial and unable to comment. She said no one in the church would speak to the news media because "we have nothing to say; we're shocked like everyone else, and all we know is what we see in the press." She said both husband Keith Laney's parents and Mrs. Laney's parents attend the church. "We're trying to comfort and uphold these wonderful families."
According to police reports, Mrs. Laney, 38, called 911 late Friday night from her rural home seven miles from town and told a dispatcher she had killed her sons-adding that "God told me to do it." Sheriff's deputies found her in the rear yard of her home and the boys' bodies in the front yard with bloody rocks-the murder weapons-on top of them. They were in their pajamas. The deputies aroused Mr. Laney, who apparently had slept through it all, and discovered the injured toddler.
Mrs. Laney is being held under suicide watch in jail on $3 million bail pending a possible indictment and trial. Her attorney, F.R. "Buck" Files, sees similarities with the case of Andrea Yates, a suburban Houston mother who drowned her five young children in June 2001. He hinted he will use an insanity defense for Mrs. Laney, a defense difficult to prove under Texas law, and one that didn't work for Mrs. Yates. She was sentenced to life in prison.