PLYMOUTH — A Plymouth County prosecutor on Tuesday said a Duxbury mother strangled her three young children last month in a planned attack that demonstrated “extreme atrocity and cruelty,” challenging the defense’s assertion that the woman’s postpartum mental condition and her regimen of prescription medications drove her to kill.
As Lindsay Clancy watched on a video monitor from her hospital room in Boston, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer L. Sprague alleged Clancy planned the slayings in advance by asking her husband to pick up food from a restaurant in Plymouth that was located farther from their home than from where they usually order takeout, so she’d have time to commit the murders.
Then, in the 20 minutes or so that the husband, Patrick Clancy, was getting food and making a stop at CVS for medicine, Lindsay Clancy allegedly strangled the children, Sprague said, and then tried to kill herself by cutting her wrists and neck before jumping out of a second-floor window.
“She planned these murders, gave herself the time and privacy needed to commit the murders, and then strangled each child in the place where they should have been the safest — their home,” Sprague said during Clancy’s arraignment in Plymouth District Court. “She did so with deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity and cruelty.”
Not guilty pleas were entered on Clancy’s behalf to charges of murder and other offenses. Killed in the attack were Clancy’s infant son, Callan; her 5-year-old daughter, Cora; and her 3-year-old son, Dawson. Clancy’s suicide attempt has left her paralyzed from the waist down, her lawyer said, and she remains suicidal.
Judge John A. Canavan III ordered Clancy to remain at her Boston hospital until she is medically cleared to be moved to another facility, rejecting a request from prosecutors to have her held without bail in a Department of Correction facility. Her next court date is slated for May 2.
Clancy’s defense attorney, Kevin Reddington, vowed to mount a vigorous defense. At the time of the killings, he said, Clancy was suffering from mental health issues linked to postpartum depression and was overmedicated on a number of psychiatric drugs, some of which can cause suicidal or homicidal ideation.
“Our society fails miserably in treating women with postpartum depression or even postpartum psychosis,” Reddington said in court. “It’s medicate, medicate, medicate. Throw the pills at you and then see how it works.”
The prosecution and defense offered differing accounts of Clancy’s mental health history. Sprague said Clancy was “initially” diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, but didn’t specify when the determination was made. She was evaluated at the Women & Infants Center for Women’s Behavioral Health in Providence in December, where psychiatrists said she didn’t have “postpartum depression,” Sprague said.
But Reddington and a psychiatrist he retained, Dr. Paul Zeizel, said Clancy is still being evaluated and no conclusions have been reached about her mental health diagnosis.
Still, Zeizel said he believes Clancy’s case shares commonalities with others who experience “command hallucinations.”
“These are people who one day will be functionally well,” he said. “But because they have the onset of command hallucinations, which they adhere to and they believe the voice that they have to do something, that’s when tragedy occurs.”
The arraignment was the first time prosecutors described how Jan. 24 in the Clancy household turned into a nightmare. Sprague interspersed the prosecution’s version of events with details about Clancy’s mental health history.
The day started with a trip to the pediatrician for Cora, followed by time playing outside in the snow and building a snowman with Dawson, Sprague said. Patrick Clancy was working from home in a basement office, she said.
But amid the activities, Sprague said, Clancy researched how long it would take to drive from their home in Duxbury to ThreeV restaurant in Kingston. Clancy then picked that spot for takeout so her husband would be out of the house running errands while she committed the killings, Sprague said.
When Patrick Clancy returned home from the errands, he found his wife had jumped from the second floor and their three children had been strangled with exercise ropes, Sprague said. He called 911.
“He removed the bands and begged them to breathe,” Sprague said. “He continued to scream uncontrollably and scream for officers to come to the basement. The  dispatchers are hearing this and they send help down to the basement. And when they encounter Patrick, he yells out, ‘She killed the kids.’ ”
Sprague said Lindsay Clancy spoke by phone with her husband on Monday from her hospital room, in the presence of a psychiatric professional hired by her lawyer.
Sprague said Clancy told her husband that “she killed the kids because she heard a voice and had ‘a moment of psychosis.’ He asked her what voices she heard and she said she heard a man’s voice telling her to kill the kids and kill herself because it was her last chance.”
During Tuesday’s arraignment, Sprague said Clancy had admitted herself to McLean Hospital in Belmont on Jan. 1 and was discharged on Jan. 5. “The hospital did not file any paperwork attempting to have her committed as a danger to herself or others,” she said.
Reddington rejected the assertion that Clancy’s Googling of the distance between the home and restaurant was evidence of a plan to kill her children. He said the Clancy home is filled with toys and drawings and other evidence demonstrating his client’s love for her children.
“You think this is something that she’s planning, to kill these three kids . . . going onto Google Maps or whatever it is, and finding out the distance, when she tells her husband she’s having suicidal thoughts” a month beforehand as well as “thoughts of hurting her children?”
“This is a significant issue, between the postpartum depression, as well as [a] possibility of postpartum psychosis that is pretty much ignored,” Reddington said.
David Meier, a lawyer who represents Patrick Clancy, attended the arraignment on Tuesday and later released a statement asking the media and public to respect his client’s privacy. “The circumstances of this case speak for themselves,” the statement said. “Patrick Clancy adored his children and was devoted to his wife. He did everything he humanly could to support them both and to save his wife from her struggles. The facts that led to this unimaginable tragedy will speak the truth.”
Once police arrived at the Clancys’ home on Jan. 24, Cora and Dawson were pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Callan was taken to Boston Children’s Hospital, where he died three days later.
On Jan. 27, the day the child died, Clancy used an erasable white board to pose a question because she was intubated, Sprague said..
“Do I need an attorney,” Sprague quoted Clancy as asking.
“She knew she had murdered her children and she had the clarity, focus, and mental acumen to focus on protecting her own rights and interests,” Sprague said.
Brad Bailey, a former Middlesex assistant district attorney and federal prosecutor, said in an interview that Sprague is being strategic in arguing early on that Clancy preplanned the murders of her children.
“They’re going to look at whatever evidence they have that would support a first-degree murder finding,” said Bailey, a defense attorney in Boston. “If the defense puts this in play that they’re basing this defense on lack of criminal responsibility, then it’s going to be up to the prosecution to establish that she was sane at the time of the offense conduct and therefore should be held accountable for what she’s done.”
John Ellement and Travis Andersen of the Globe staff and Correspondent Matt Yan contributed to this report.