PINEHURST, Texas (KTRK) -- Melissa Towne, the mother accused of killing her 5-year-old daughter Nichole Bradshaw, was seen living in a squatters' camp in the small town of Pinehurst just a few days before the girl's death.
Rachel Brown, a nearby resident, said she has been trying to report problems with the camp for weeks.
"Last Wednesday is when I last saw her in this property across the street," Brown said. "She just walks up and down the streets. You never know what she's going to have. She may have a toaster under her arm, or a baby stroller with a dog in it. You just don't know."
Brown's description of the accused mother is similar to what family members have said about Towne since she was charged with capital murder on Monday.
On Tuesday morning, Towne made her first in-person appearance in front of a Harris County Judge. Investigators said Towne admitted to slicing her daughter Nichole's throat, then choking her.
She allegedly drove the child's body to Tomball Hospital on Sunday. Towne appeared tearful and a bit confused. Her bond remained at $15 million.
"The facts themselves indicate the lady had some serious mental health issues," appointed defense attorney James Stafford said. "It is my understanding she has been institutionalized at least nine times for mental health purposes. There is no doubt there are some dark demons haunting her."
Brown, who was unaware of the horrific murder until she saw it in the media, said she had called Montgomery County authorities about the squatters' camp, also known as a shack, but they were not very responsive.
She is now worried that the little girl may have spent some time in that squatters' camp, and nobody noticed.
"That's the real fear. She's always here. Why wouldn't she have had the child here? Why is there evidence nowhere else? I am concerned that the police are not putting the dots together," Brown said.
Brown says portions of the squatters' camp refuse were picked up by trash collectors two days ago. She worries some evidence in the case may now be in a landfill.
Brown is now waiting for a call from Harris County Sheriff's Department and says she will share any photos and videos she has if it helps with the case.