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Mental review ordered for Sebastopol murder suspect

  • Julia Franzen, accused of killing her mother, appeared in Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa on Monday. (SCOTT MANCHESTER/Press Democrat)

A Sonoma County judge suspended criminal proceedings Monday against a Sebastopol woman accused of stabbing her mother to death.

Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite ordered Julia Franzen, 24, to be examined by Dr. David Schneider to determine if she is capable of assisting in her own defense.

Franzen is facing a murder charge in the Feb. 4 slaying of Nancy Franzen, 59, at her Tocchini Street home. Neighbors told police they saw the daughter walk out with a knife in her hand and say she killed someone.

Nancy Franzen was found dead on a bedroom floor. It looked as though she had been chased from room to room before she collapsed, authorities said.

Julia Franzen has not entered a plea.

A sheriff's spokesman said she suffered mental illness. Friends said police had been to the house on a number of occasions.

Court records show the daughter had been convicted of a 2011 battery on her mother. A judge in that case issued a stay-away order from the house.

On Monday, Julia Franzen sat confined to a wheelchair in a blue jail uniform as her lawyer spoke with prosecutors and the judge. She appeared to become panic-stricken when the judge ordered her back March 11 and spoke incoherently before she was led away.

"Just grow a garden," Franzen said in court. "It's the most beautiful thing you could ever do."

Outside court, family friends said they were aware of Nancy Franzen's struggles with her daughter.

Steve Einstein of Sebastopol, who met Nancy Franzen when they were both nurses at Sutter VNA & Hospice in Santa Rosa, said Julia Franzen resisted her mother's efforts to help.

"Nancy was a good mother who did the best she could in a difficult situation," Einstein said.

Julia Franzen had a daughter and they both lived with Nancy Franzen at some point. Now, the 4-year-old girl is in her father's custody, Einstein said.

He said authorities had released Nancy Franzen's body to her sister. He didn't know about funeral arrangements.

Criminal proceedings were halted at the request of her lawyer, interim Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi, who expressed doubt about Franzen's competency.

Pozzi said she would consider the woman's current mental state before deciding on any possible defenses, including that she was insane at the time of the killing.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.

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