Nurse accused of murder, baby abduction under suicide watch in jail

April 19, 2012 8:08:33 PM PDT
The woman accused of killing a mother, then kidnapping her newborn in Montgomery County to pass him off as her own went before a judge in Conroe Thursday morning.

Verna McClain is charged with capital murder and sits in the Montgomery County Jail. Investigators say she shot and killed the baby's mother outside a medical clinic in The Woodlands area Tuesday, snatched the victim's baby and drove away.

So far, attorneys are the only visitors Verna McClain has had in jail. Prosecutors are in the process of turning over everything they have to her attorneys so they can start putting their case together.

Wearing a white and pink jumpsuit and handcuffs, the accused killer looked upset and confused in her court appearance on Thursday morning. The court appointed the mother of three an attorney after McClain told the judge she was flat broke. Her voice at times shaky, she said to the judge that she had no house, no car and no savings to pay for an attorney.

Her defense attorneys would not comment on McClain's state of mind.

"She's being held in what they call 24-hour holding, which is suicide watch. She is being tended to. I looked at the records and at this point I have no complaint about her treatment in the Montgomery County Jail," said defense attorney E. Tay Bond.

Prosecutors say they'll be fighting just as hard to keep McClain in jail without bond until her trial. She's charged with capital murder and faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

"The state will be turning over everything we have to the defense. We will accommodate them to the degree that we can. We will probably accompany them to several of the scenes. As they do their job, we will be doing our job," said Montgomery Co. District Attorney Brett Ligon. "Everybody is entitled due process under the law. Ms. McClain will get her due process as we seek capital punishment."

Investigators say McClain, a nurse, suffered a miscarriage and was desperate to find a baby because she told her fiance she had already given birth to their child. Authorities say McClain saw her chance with 28-year-old Kala Golden Schuchardt so she shot her multiple times in a clinic parking lot and sped away with her tiny newborn son and planned to pass him off as her own.

Laura Williams is McClain's neighbor.

"It was just a surprise because here was a person who was very timid, even-tempered and somewhat personable," Williams said.

McClain's bond hearing was delayed until Monday. Her court-appointed attorneys say they need more time to go over the evidence so they can effectively present their case.

"It's our hope on Monday that a bond is set reasonably, and so Ms. McClain will be allowed to return home and attend to her three children," said Bond.

Defense attorneys also told us that when the time comes they will be entering a plea of not guilty.

The deceased woman's husband, Keith Schuchardt, has seen Baby Keegan several times over the past couple of days. The baby and his two siblings are still in a relative's custody for now.

CPS has given Schuchardt permission to move in with that relative who is caring for the children.

McClain, 30, in her desperation to find a baby, went looking for an infant where she knew she could find one: the suburban Houston clinic where she had taken her three other children for checkups.

Heightening the urgency of her search was that McClain had told her fiance she had already given birth to their child, said Capt. Bruce Zenor of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.

But authorities say when McClain went to the clinic this week, her choice of which mother and child to target appeared to have been made at random.

"There is nothing to indicate this was anything beyond planning further than" going to the clinic, Zenor said.

Authorities say McClain saw her chance when Schuchardt, 28, and her 3-day-old son, Keegan, left the clinic after his first checkup since being born. McClain is accused of shooting Schuchardt multiple times in the clinic's parking lot and speeding away with her tiny newborn son.

Keegan was found unharmed hours later with McClain's sister -- who said her sister told her she planned to adopt the boy. Keegan is back with family members. Schuchardt died at a local hospital.

McClain faces a capital murder charge that carries a potential death sentence.

But Montgomery County Sheriff's Detective John Schmitt said McClain, who authorities say has admitted attacking Schuchardt on Tuesday and stealing the baby from his mother's pickup truck, does "appear remorseful for what happened."

McClain's husband, who is separated from her, said he was shocked by what she is accused of doing.

"I can't believe she shot someone. That's not Vera," her estranged husband, Theo McClain, of San Diego, told The Associated Press. The couple had raised three children, who are being cared for by a relative in Houston after McClain's arrest.

Authorities say McClain had parked next to Schuchardt at Northwoods Pediatric Center in Spring, about 20 miles north of Houston. As Schuchardt was placing Keegan into her pickup truck, McClain shot her, snatched the child from the truck and sped off. The dying woman had leaned into the vehicle and tried to take the boy back, screaming, "My baby!"

Later Tuesday, two detectives spotted a vehicle outside a nearby apartment complex that matched witnesses' descriptions of the one the shooter sped off in, said Montgomery County Sheriff Tommy Gage. Though McClain's apartment was empty, she showed up and talked to investigators.

Detectives then learned of a residence in Harris County where McClain's sister lives and the child might be, Gage said. Keegan was found later Tuesday evening at that home.

McClain's sister, Corina Jackson, told authorities that McClain had talked about needing to "do the adoption" soon after taking Keegan.

McClain was later arrested. Police do not believe anyone else was involved.

Authorities say they have interviewed McClain's fiance, who was not identified Wednesday.

The kidnapped baby has been returned to his family, according to his father, Keith Schuchardt, who said he had been married to Kala Schuchardt for three years.

Asked by reporters what he would tell his wife now, Schuchardt said, "I wish you were here with me to get me through this."

Schuchardt, who also has a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, said officials were initially concerned about his criminal record, which includes felony convictions for possession of a controlled substance and burglary of a coin-operated machine.

Gwen Carter, a spokeswoman for Texas' Department of Family and Protective Services, said Schuchardt could see his children as often as he wanted while authorities worked on the case.

McClain is a vocational nurse at a local staffing agency, a job that involves providing basic nursing services under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

McClain, who has vocational nursing licenses in California and Texas, has not faced disciplinary action in either state, according to licensing boards.

A memorial fund has been set up at Spirit of Texas Bank, 5452 Highway 105, Suite 101, Conroe. The bank's phone number is 936-538-1000.

Donations should be made payable to: Schuchardt Family Benefit. Donations can be made at any branch -- locations can be found on the website at

Additionally, a barbeque benefit for the family of Kala Schuchardt Schuchardt will be held Saturday, April 21, beginning at 10am at the Willis Youth Athletic Association at 13551 Rogers Road in Willis. Another benefit for Baby Keegan is scheduled for on June 10 at Papa's Icehouse located in Spring, Texas from 12-9pm.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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