Tina Funderburk is a forgotten woman.
The 37-year-old mother from Brooklyn, N.Y., remains in the Hinds County Detention Center, where she has spent much of the last eight years behind bars.
She remains in legal limbo – still charged with murder in the death of her 3-year-old daughter, Reina Russell, but unlikely to ever be tried.
In 2009, Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green ordered Funderburk, who has been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, sent to the State Hospital at Whitfield unit for those determined to be criminally insane, but after treatment, Whitfield officials returned her.
“This poor woman diagnosed as having psychosis and delusions is languishing in jail?” said Tucker Carrington, director of the Mississippi Innocence Project. “That seems needlessly cruel.”
Angela Ladner, executive director for the Mississippi Psychiatric Association, said the situation needs to be corrected. “You don’t put mentally ill people in jail,” she said. “You get them medical treatment.”
Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith said he is open to negotiations with the defense. Until that happens, “we cannot override a court’s order,” he said.
Stanley Wesley, who has visited Funderburk in jail, said she has already served twice as much time as then-District Attorney Faye Peterson offered in a plea bargain – four years for child endangerment.
Funderburk didn’t take the deal, insisting she never killed her child, he said.
Funderburk is severely schizophrenic. At the very least, she appears to have abandoned her daughter while traveling through Mississippi, while in the middle of a schizophrenic episode.But even if she had killed the girl, it doesn’t excuse locking a severely mentally ill woman up for eight years, without treatment, without so much as a trial.
If you’re wondering, yes, Steven Hayne was involved. Based on the girl’s remains, he determined her death was a homicide. Other doctors found insufficient evidence for that conclusion.