by Starks Shrink

On July 2nd 2005, Oklahoma resident Sheilla Shea took a knife and stabbed her six year old son, Patric, to death in front of her other three children, one of whom wrestled her to the floor and took the knife. Her 10-year-old son ran across the street to Shea’s mother-in-law’s home to tell her what had happened. The mother-in-law, Pauline Shea, told police the police that Sheilla suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. When police spoke to Sheilla, she admitted that she had fatally stabbed Patric and had intended to kill all her children and herself. She apparently believed that someone was trying to kill her children and decided that if she killed them first, it would be more humane. Certainly, not a rational thought but there are very few of those when someone is in the grip of psychosis.

eilla5Sheilla Shea wisely followed her attorney’s advice and waived a jury trial. Her case was heard by a judge and he rendered a verdict of guilty by reason of insanity. I know states vary with respect to the actual availability of guilty by reason of insanity verdicts, and I imagine our resident attorney and legal expert, Rick, will check in on this account. Had Sheilla opted for a jury trial, the results could have been disastrous, based upon recent comments in social media. Instead, she was committed involuntarily to a psychiatric facility, where she remained in custody for nine years until she was released just last month.

eillaI first heard of Sheilla Shea just last week and only because she appeared on a television show about Justin Ross Harris and the car seat death of his child Cooper. When interviewed, Sheilla claimed that she knew what Harris was going through because she had also killed her child. Apparently, she also gave an interview on “Dr. Drew” about the horrific event. I have not seen the interview, nor have I been able to find it online. Why did she make a statement about Harris? I believe that she is not judging his culpability, only expressing her empathy with a parent who knows they have fatally harmed their child, be it through neglect or as a result of mental illness.

eilla7My curiosity piqued, I dug a little bit into this case and was left with a number of questions that were never answered satisfactorily but invite discussion.

Pauline Shea, Sheilla’s mother-in-law, told police that Sheilla was acting “off” and had told her and other people that she thought people were trying to crawl in through her window. In the days prior to the killing, she had kept the children indoors out of fear for their safety. This makes me ask the question: why didn’t Pauline do something? If she knew that Sheilla had schizophrenia, wouldn’t fantasies like this raise a red flag that something was seriously amiss?

eilla6Additionally, I discovered that a year prior to Patric’s death, Shea’s husband, Milton Eugene “Gene” Shea, was arrested for the production and possession of methamphetamine. This is when Pauline states that Sheilla “went off the deep end”. After Gene went to prison for his drug crime, Pauline claims that she took Sheilla to a mental crisis center, where she remained for up to three weeks while Pauline cared for her children. Twice during that period, reports were filed with health services. One report stated that Sheilla was being abused and forced to take drugs, and another claimed that she was abused and someone attempted to set her on fire. An ensuing investigation determined that the children were in no immediate danger and they referred Sheilla to counseling services. It’s my best guess that Sheilla herself was having delusions and made the reports herself. The investigation did note that the living conditions in the home were substandard – also a sign of mental illness. There are no indications that Sheilla herself ever abused methamphetamine, and in fact her mother-in-law claims that the couple often fought over his drug abuse.

eilla4In 2011, Sheilla was granted a conditional release which was intended to reintegrate her into society and build her self-reliance. She lived in her own apartment, filled her own prescriptions and attended her counseling appointments. This is a vital part of the treatment to ensure that the client will become and remain compliant with their treatment plan. Last month she was granted a full release from the psychiatric hospital. In essence, she is now a free woman. Her meth-cooking husband died in 2011, her children have forgiven her and understand, after extensive counseling themselves, that their mother was an extremely ill woman and incapable of acting differently. The public, however, is relentless. After her interview on HLN aired, many people were calling for her to be put into prison and worse. Their rationalization was that in the interview, Sheilla appreciated the enormity of her actions and didn’t seem mentally ill. Part of me wants to scream “DUH”; she’s been in a mental hospital for nine long years. They stabilized her medication so that she was no longer psychotic, and she underwent extensive therapy to deal with the after-effects of her actions, once she was able to fully understand what she had done. The rational part of me sees that the public-at-large does not understand serious mental illness/psychosis and how devastating it can be to the person who has to live with it.

eilla2I’m not sure why Sheilla Shea decided to go public with her story. She says she would sell her soul to have Patric back. I would hope that people could learn from the story of her family’s tragedy and intervene when someone is showing clear signs of mental illness. Regrettably, the masses seem to only scream for blood and ignore the stark reality that mental illness is a serious problem that we as a society need to provide care for in order to prevent occurrences such as that which befell Patric.


frePlease click here to view The Starks Shrink’s Other Posts:

The Overheating Death of Cooper Harris: Murder or Tragic Accident?

Why Beautiful Murderesses Inflame the Passions of the True Crime Fan

Going Postal Goes Fed-Ex!

How to Raise a Serial Killer in 10 Easy Steps

The Julie Schenecker Tragedy: Negligence, Finger-Pointing and the Death of Children

Luka Magnotta: Man, Boy or Beast?

The Disturbing Truth about Mothers Who Murder Their Children

Teleka Patrick Needed a Psychiatrist, Not a Pastor!

Rehabbing the Wounded Juvenile Will Save Their Souls (and Ours)

Skylar Neese and the Mean Girls Who Killed Her


9 Responses to Schizophrenic Child Killer Sheilla Shea Would “Sell Her Soul” to Bring Her Son Patric Back

  1. Darcia Helle says:

    Such a tragic story.

    I’m struck by the mother-in-law’s role – or lack thereof. Schizophrenic or not, if my daughter-in-law told me she feared people were trying to crawl in her window, I’d do my best to ensure my grandchildren were not left alone with her.

    No surprise that people are screaming for Sheilla to go to prison. The general public doesn’t have much patience for mental illness in the common people. If Sheilla was a football star or popular actress, I’m sure they’d be more sympathetic.

    I give her a lot of credit for speaking publicly. Maybe someone out there will remember this story when his/her own family member starts behaving erratically.

  2. PatrickHMoore says:

    Although this is in many ways a very sad story, I also find it quite uplifting in the sense that this is a case in which a severely mentally ill individual was treated in an even-handed way by the system. Her guilty by reason o0f insanity verdict appears to have clearly been the right decision on the part of the judge and she also appears to have spent sufficient time in the mental institution to have recovered sufficiently to return to life in society.

    It is a shame that every mentally ill person who commits a serious crime is not treated in an equally fair and balanced manner.

    • Rick says:

      The pitchfork mentality of the public (no offense intended to the Pitchforks who occasionally inhabits this site) is really quite shameful. Don’t people realize that the mentally ill do not possess the requisite mental intent to be found guilty and punished for a crime? Also, the idea behind placing someone in a mental institution is to treat and (hopefully) cure them of a disease of the mind, whereas imprisonment is intended to punish people.

  3. Rick says:

    Dr. Starks – Excellent post! As REO Speedwagon would say “keep on rolling.”

    In answer to your question about the availability of a “guilty by reason of insanity” verdict in the various states, Oklahoma is a bit of an outlier, as only about 20 states allowed a guilty but mental ill (“GBMI”) verdict as of 11/2009. See I must confess that I was unaware that a GBMI verdict was so readily available in the U.S., since it seems like a Canadian concept, if memory serves from reading Lise LaSalle’s posts. As the attached link suggests, the general public mistakenly believes that people found GBMI get off scot free and don’t have to serve time in prison. They don’t; they just get necessary mental health care treatment, albeit not at the same level as if they were in a mental hospital.

  4. […] Schizophrenic Child Killer Sheilla Shea Would “Sell Her Soul” to Bring Her Son Patric Back […]

  5. sheills shea says:

    I could say so many things but it will not bring my son back. My husband did indeed try to set me on fire. It was my mother and sister in law who called dhs. My husband did a lot of mean and cruel things to me.I could go on but I won’t. I want to say thank you to you and the people on here who have a tiny inkling about what mental illness really is. My family and children have been so supportive of me. I am very thankful everyday but I still have to live with what I did. And that is a hard road to walk.

  6. Nicole says:

    I have the privilege of knowing sheilla and would love to say no matter what happened in her past today she is a beautiful loving woman who has helped my family in too many ways to count. I will forever be thankful that God spared her from this situation so she could spare me from mine. Sheilla we love you.

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