- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Defense attorneys are seeking a psychiatric evaluation for a North Dakota mother accused of leaving her two young daughters to die in an unheated car during a frigid winter day.

Public defenders for Michelle Wounded Face say she appears delusional and has acted oddly in jail, drinking toilet water, eating pillow stuffing and “engaging in bulimia.” She has been moved to an isolated cell “due to safety concerns,” Assistant Federal Public Defender Ryan Costello said in court documents.

Costello has asked Magistrate Judge Charles Miller to order Wounded Face be examined at a federal Bureau of Prisons medical facility in Rochester, Minnesota, to determine if she is mentally competent to stand trial on a child abuse charge. The U.S. attorney’s office is not objecting to the proposal. Miller had not ruled on the request as of early Wednesday.

Wounded Face, 24, is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota who has been living in New Town on the Fort Berthold Reservation. She is accused of abandoning her 2- and 4-year-old daughters in a car for more than three hours on Jan. 3 near Lake Sakakawea.

Authorities say the average temperature that day was 1 degree, a wind chill advisory was in effect, and the children were inadequately dressed for the cold.

Wounded Face acknowledged during an interview that she had left the children in the car to die, FBI Special Agent Megan Bennett said in an affidavit.

The children survived. The U.S. attorney’s office has not said where they are or commented on the case, citing the ongoing investigation. The child abuse charge carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Wounded Face’s preliminary hearing was terminated Jan. 12 after Miller concluded that she did not understand the proceedings and was displaying signs of poor mental health.

Costello said in court documents that when he and an investigator attempted to meet with Wounded Face three days later, they found it difficult to have a productive dialogue, in part because Wounded Face said the officials “were evil forces, in shape-shifting form, sent to steal her soul.”

The conversation ended with Wounded Face vomiting, spitting at the officials and “horrendously screaming in her cell while simultaneously sobbing profusely,” Costello wrote.

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Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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