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Mother charged with stabbing daughter

PORTLAND, Maine -- A woman who said she stabbed her 11-year-old daughter to protect her from a curse has been determined to be mentally competent to stand trial, a judge ruled.

Justice Nancy Mills ruled on Friday that Paula Tarbox, 40, understands the charges against her well enough to assist in her defense. Mills did not rule on whether Tarbox was mentally competent on the night of the stabbing.

Tarbox has been held at the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta since her arrest on July 5 on a charge of attempted murder.

That night Tarbox allegedly planned to kill her four children, ranging in age from 2 to 16, to save them from a curse she believed her boyfriend had put on the family, police said.

Her oldest daughter stopped her after she stabbed the 11-year-old, who was treated for wounds in her back and arm.

Dr. Deborah Vaeder, the state's chief forensic psychologist, has interviewed Tarbox on several occasions. She said during the hearing that Tarbox has a history of mental illness and has been hospitalized at least once.

Since her arrest, Tarbox has attempted suicide at the Cumberland County Jail and told Vaeder that she believed poison gas had been pumped into her cell.

Shortly after she was arrested, Tarbox jumped onto a concrete floor from a wall-mounted sink inside her cell at the Cumberland County Jail's maximum security unit after tying a bra around her throat.

Tarbox's attorney, Thomas Greco, said Tarbox's mental state changes from day to day and he is not always confident she can participate in her own defense.

Greco said she would plead insanity. He said he expected that prosecutors would not contest the plea.

Following the hearing Tarbox was returned to Riverview, where she will be evaluated further by a doctor hired by her lawyer.

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