WARREN - Felicia Banks Beemer squirmed around in her seat Friday, sometimes staring at the ceiling or gazing into space while listening to testimony from three experts focusing on competency tests they performed on the 22-year-old mother of four accused of raping a young family member.
The experts all agreed Banks Beemer is mildly or borderline mentally retarded and reads and functions as if she were an 8- or 9-year-old.
But two of the experts - Dr. Phillip J. Resnick, a psychiatrist with Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, and Thomas Gazley, a psychologist with the Forensic Psychiatric Center of Northeast Ohio - said although Banks Beemer is easily led by those in a position of authority, she meets the criteria of competency.
Felicia Banks Beemer, who is accused of raping a child, reacts Friday to testimony in a competency hearing before Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge W. Wyatt McKay. Tribune Chronicle photos / Christopher Bobby
Resnick and Gazley said Banks Beemer is capable of understanding the court proceedings and the various roles of judge, jury, prosecutor and defense attorney. And, she is able to aid in her defense and understand strategy planned by her attorney John Fowler.
Resnick qualified his findings by suggesting that if her case comes to trial that the court allow breaks at least every hour because of Banks Beemer's short attention span.
A third expert retained by Fowler, John Fabian, a psychologist and lawyer himself, said she may understand the proceedings and what allegations she faces, but she is unable to aid in her own defense. He also included in his report that he doesn't feel her competency can be restored within a year.
Judge W. Wyatt McKay took the testimony and reports under advisement and is expected to release a decision later.
Banks Beemer is accused of participating in the rape of the 9-month-old female, gross sexual imposition and charges of pandering obscenity of a minor since police say the sexual attacks were recorded on a cell phone during a supervised visit with the infant at Trumbull County Children's Services offices on Reeves Road.
Banks Beemer's husband, Cody Beemer, 23, pleaded guilty to similar charges in June and was sentenced to life in prison with a chance at parole after serving 25 years. The case has caused a flurry of investigations and litigation against the agency.
''She functions like a youth. I viewed this as a juvenile court case,'' said Fabian. ''It's tragic.''
He outlined how Banks Beemer grew up in six different foster homes and had her first child at age 14. That child was killed after she was placed in foster care, and the other three children were also taken from Banks Beemer at birth.
Banks Beemer told the experts during interviews that she was physically and sexually abused while growing up.
Fowler used direct testimony from Fabian to try and point out how Banks Beemer was compelled to tell police detectives everything they asked her without requesting an attorney.
But assistant county prosecutor Diane Barber introduced testimony in the form of video, showing portions of her confession to Warren Detective Mike Currington.
Resnick analyzed the three scenes and explained how Banks Beemer first denied knowing that the rape at CSB was recorded on a cell phone. A second clip shows her admitting to a recording because she wanted to document a birth mark. Four minutes later, she admitted that Cody Beemer used the cell phone to record a rape.
Also brought out by Barber was how Banks Beemer declined to discuss certain matters with the experts because she said she was under orders by her attorney to not discuss them.
She told one of the experts that she was holding out for a plea bargain deal that would allow her to do 10 years in prison and then get released.
''Why should I do 25 years when the person who killed my child only got nine years,'' Resnick said he was told by Banks Beemer.
CSB acknowledged they had relaxed the supervised visitation for the Beemers prior to the rape. At the time of the incident, caseworkers were checking in on the trio in "timed intervals" during the weekly two-hour visits.
Court records showed CSB was aware of Cody Beemer's history, which includes sexually assaulting a 3-year-old girl as a teenager and abusing his wife.
The girl in question in the recent case, now 2 years old, was taken from her parents at birth.
She likely will be adopted by foster parents in northern Trumbull County, who according to records, have provided her with exceptional care despite the child's ongoing health problems prompted in part because her mother smoked throughout her pregnancy.
Relatives have criticized CSB since another relative of the girl, Tiffany Sue Banks, was immediately taken into CSB custody after her birth in June 2007 and later killed by her foster mother, Bonnie Pattinson of Newton Falls. Pattinson was sentenced to nine years in prison.
The allegations also prompted two investigations, one into CSB's practices and policies surrounding supervised visitation and a criminal investigation being conducted by BCI to see if the agency was criminally negligent. In the wake of the investigations, CSB executive director Nick Kerosky resigned.
BCI still is investigating and several lawsuits against the agency filed after the rape was uncovered. And a special prosecutor was recently appointed to present findings to a grand jury.