Mother accused of killing baby is found dead

By Steve Karnowski

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Even though a Villanova University professor jailed on charges of killing her baby daughter was on a suicide watch, she somehow obtained a plastic bag and used it to suffocate herself, authorities said Sunday.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bill Fletcher said Mine Ener, 38, appeared to be sleeping with a blanket pulled over her head when a deputy checked on her through a window at 3:15 p.m. Saturday. But a jailer who checked on her half an hour later pulled down the blanket and found a garbage bag tied over her head.

Attempts to revive Ener failed, and the history professor was pronounced dead an hour later at Regions Hospital. She did not leave a suicide note, the sheriff said.


"We're not a psychiatric ward. And it is next to impossible to stop someone from killing themselves if they're intelligent, and they have a strong intent to do that," Fletcher said at a news conference.

Ener had been jailed on a charge of second-degree murder for allegedly using a kitchen knife to cut the throat of her 6-month-old daughter, Raya Donagi, during a visit to her mother's St. Paul home Aug. 4.

According to court papers, Raya had Down syndrome, and Ener told police she couldn't stand seeing her daughter go through life suffering. Ener also said she was considering suicide and that she was on medication for postpartum depression.

Fletcher said prisoners normally don't have access to plastic bags, such as the kitchen-can-sized bag found on Ener, and investigators will try to determine how she got it. He speculated that she probably obtained it days earlier, perhaps when she was being escorted outside her unit to see a psychiatrist or nurse.

The sheriff said that suffocation is an unusual way to commit suicide and that the human instinct to breathe would normally make it difficult. Investigators are looking into whether medications might have been a factor, he said. He said he expected preliminary autopsy results Tuesday.

Fletcher said Ener was put on suicide watch Aug. 16 after deputies spotted her attempting to fashion a noose. That meant she had to sleep in the common "day area" of her small cellblock, or pod, so she could be watched. She was also given clothes made of Kevlar fiber that were too strong to be torn and used to hang herself, and she was subject to frequent checks.

Fletcher said it isn't unusual for inmates to sleep with their faces under their blankets because there are no blinds on the windows, and the lights are on all the time.

Ener's defense attorney, Joe Friedberg, accused Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner on Sunday of politicizing the case and blamed the prosecutor for Ener's death.


"The responsibility for this lies right at the feet of Susan Gaertner," Friedberg said. He said the prosecutor made the decision to jail Ener instead of hospitalizing her.

"The jail wasn't set up for people who are psychotic and those who are self-destructive," he said.

Gaertner responded that the court had made no determinations about Ener's mental condition and that it was "completely appropriate" to hold her at the jail.

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