A rural Saline County girl accused of fatally stabbing her sister is behaving well in the juvenile detention center and the mental disorders she has been diagnosed with are not uncommon among teenagers will be on trial as an adult.
Judge Patrick Thompson planned final arguments over the motion to certify Sierra Niehaus as an adult in Saline District Court on Tuesday at 10 a.m.
I’ve never had a problem with Sierra? said Gloria Ruggero, a youth correction officer at the Junction City juvenile detention center where Sierra is staying. ?? She is always polite, respectful, friendly and gets along with other residents and employees. ??
Ruggero said her good behavior was not typical of other teenagers housed at the facility.
She said Sierra loves to read, helps select books to be taken to the detention center, and exercises every morning. Ruggero said Sierra welcomed mail from family members.
Did she mention that she ever missed her sister? asked District Attorney Kassie McEntire, an assistant prosecutor. Ruggero said no.
No memory of the day
Dr. Jarrod Steffan, a forensic and clinical psychologist from Wichita, testified that Sierra has no memory of what happened on August 1, 2014, the day she was accused of fatally stabbing her 13-year-old sister Galazia . He said his conclusion was that the anger she was feeling at the time turned off the part of her brain that holds memory, but he said she just might not be willing or able to discuss memory.
It’s difficult to know if someone is being honest with you or not. he said. ?? There is really no way to check this particular instance. ??
He said Sierra told him she had no memory of the day before she was in an ambulance and interacting with the police.
Attorney Bob Thompson, who represents Sierra, asked Steffan if another reason Sierra couldn’t remember stabbing her sister was because she didn’t. Steffan agreed.
It is not dangerous
Steffan said he rated Sierra during a four-hour interview on Sept. 26. He said he did several standardized tests for teenagers and diagnosed her with oppositional defiant disorder and unspecified mood disorder. He said neither of the disorders was unusual for a teenager, and both could be treated effectively, and the detention center had programs that would benefit her.
?? Their charges are extremely grave, but their level of danger to the community is actually below average when compared to other perpetrators. ?? he said.
He said her worst breakouts prior to the incident included slamming doors. He said Sierra just finished school with A ?? s held while cheerleading, exercising and playing the flute in the band. She had never had problems with the law or with school officials.
Open to treatment
He said Sierra slumped in her chair during the evaluation, looking withdrawn and reserved. Her answers were short and not detailed, but he said she did not try to evade her answers and that her thought processes were clear and logically organized. He said she had shown no real feelings for her sister’s death.
“She sees no need for treatment or behavior change, but is open to participation in treatment.” Said Steffan.
McEntire asked Steffan about the lifestyle changes mentioned in his report after Sierra’s mother left her birth father and started a relationship with her stepfather, Dean Niehaus.
Prefers the old way of life
The report found that the environment in which the girls lived no longer included curses, alcohol, drugs, domestic violence and instability, and that their mother was dressed more conservatively. Although Sierra stated that Dean Niehaus was nice and hardworking, she said she preferred the old way of life, Steffan said.
?? Doctor, how can we fix a problem when we’re not even sure what the problem is ??? Asked McEntire.
??That’s a good question,?? Steffan replied, adding that although the August 1st events cannot be resolved, there may be diagnosed problems with Sierra.
?? Reporter Erin Mathews can be reached at 822-1415 or by email at [email protected]