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Newsmakers take plunge off the deep end

I thought I'd seen it all.

In the decade I've been in this business, I've seen some horrible pictures and read some heartbreaking stories on the Associated Press news wire. But I think this week takes the cake.

Here are some excerpts from just a few of the stories on the wire this week:

· WAUSAU, Wis. - A central Wisconsin father charged with reckless homicide for not taking his dying daughter to a doctor told police that he believed God would heal her and that he thought she was simply sleeping when she became unconscious.

· DALLAS - The hotel bathroom was a de facto prison cell - a cramped, foul space where three young children were starved, beaten and sexually assaulted for at least nine months.

· SAN ANTONIO - A Texas mother accused of decapitating her 31/2-week-old son screamed, 'I didn't mean to do it. He told me to,' while her sister pleaded for an ambulance to bring help in a desperate four-minute 911 call released Wednesday. ... Sanchez is charged with capital murder in the slaying of Scott Wesley Buchholz-Sanchez, who authorities found decapitated and grossly mutilated in a bedroom of her sister's house early Sunday. Police said Sanchez chewed off three of her infant's toes and ate parts of the brain.

· WORCESTER, Mass. - A pregnant woman was found dead in her apartment with her fetus cut from her womb, and police on Wednesday were trying to find the missing baby, which they said could have survived. (It did, thank God.)

· PHOENIX - A jury spared a man convicted in a series of random nighttime shootings from the death penalty and sentenced him to life in prison on Wednesday. ... In describing one shooting, Dieteman said he and Hausner found humor at the sight of one of their seriously injured victims, who held his stomach and appeared angry.

· COLUMBIA, S.C. - A South Carolina man was charged with having sex with a horse after the animal's owner caught the act on videotape, then staked out the stable and caught him at shotgun point, authorities said Wednesday. But this wasn't the first time Rodell Vereen has been charged with buggery. He pleaded guilty last year to having sex with the same horse. ...

That's just the tip of the iceberg. A murder/rape in Seattle. A man convicted of whipping and burning his girlfriend. Right here in Gwinnett, a woman has been accused of stabbing her husband to death in an attack that was described by one witness as "straight out of a horror flick."

My God, people. Has everyone just taken the plunge right off the deep end?

I can't help but notice that the victims of most of these crimes are children. The old quote about a nation's greatness being measured by how it treats its weakest members leaps to mind.

The excuses are limitless: Jealousy. Fanatacism. Bored. And, in the case of the mother who killed and cannibalized her baby, the devil made her do it.

Considering the repulsiveness, it's tempting to believe her. But I think the real culprit is whoever let this woman out of the psychiatric ward because that's the most common reason here: Off their meds.

The guy with the horse? Off his meds. The murder/rape in Seattle? Off his medicine.

Several years ago, a man walked into a Gwinnett school and hit a little girl in the head with a hammer because the voice in his head told him to. He'd stopped taking his anti-psychotic medicine.

I'm no psychiatrist, but I don't think I have to be one to know there are stages of mental illness that run the gamut from stress and depression to full-blown psychosis. What I want to know is at what point do we say, "You know what, medicine or no medicine, you're too crazy to be out among the rest of us"? I believe the answer is the point where you place the burden of staying normal via medication on a lunatic.

I've got a vacation coming up next week, and after this week, it can't get here soon enough. Maybe the news will be better when I get back. Maybe they'll "fix" health care while I'm gone.

Then again, that's a pretty scary thought, too.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.