Judge: Mother Accused of Smother Her Three Kids Capable of Helping Her Defense

FEBRUARY 8, 2007 - Posted at 7:40 a.m. CST

DE QUEEN, Ark. (AP) - A judge at De Queen says a woman accused of smothering her three children is capable of assisting in her legal defense.

But Circuit Court Judge Ted Capeheart ordered yesterday that 43-year-old Paula Mendez of De Queen will have to undergo another mental evaluation. The second evaluation will be to determine if she knew the difference between right and wrong at the time her children were killed.

The judge ruled after more than three hours of testimony yesterday.

Mendez is charged with three counts of capital murder and faces either life in prison without parole or execution if found guilty.

She is accused of smothering her five-year-old twins Samuel and Samantha Morales and eight-year-old Elvis Morales. The children were found Jan. 28, 2006, in the family's house in De Queen.

Prosecutor Tom Cooper said Mendez will be returned to the State Hospital at Little Rock for the second mental evaluation. He said he hoped that could be completed within the next two weeks.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)