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The California woman who stripped her 11-year-old daughter naked before choking and nearly killing her as part of what she said as an “exorcism” was just found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Kimberly Felder, who was stopped short of killing her daughter by a local bystander who said “God sent” him to save the little girl, had a long trial that was at one point put on hold because her lawyer doubted whether she was competent to stand trial. Ultimately, the judge sided with experts who found she couldn’t have known what she was doing.

This morning Judge Christopher Wilson issued the verdict after reading reports from two doctors who evaluated Kimberly Ann Felder on her state of mind when she brutally attacked her 11-year-old daughter on June 16, 2017.

Both doctors “stated unequivocally that Ms. Felder was incapable of understanding the nature and quality of her acts, and of distinguishing right from wrong,” Wilson said.

Minutes before Wilson made his finding, the 46-year-old Felder pleaded no contest to attempted murder with the special allegation of causing great bodily injury. Deputy District Attorney Stacey Eads, stating a factual basis for the plea, said Felder had stripped off the child’s clothing and was striking her repeatedly while shoving sand into her mouth and eyes. She also bit off part of the girl’s ear, Eads said. Even after a witness intervened, Felder kept trying to strike the child with a piece of driftwood.

“Ms. Felder said she was doing an exorcism on her daughter,” Eads said. “She said that she was trying to remove the demons from her daughter.”

John Marciel, the man who stopped Felder from committing murder, always said that what the woman was doing was not “in any way or form an exorcism.” He told me at the time, “Plain and simple, she was trying to kill that little girl.”

This afternoon, after learning about the ruling, Marciel was shocked: “I’m at a loss of words over this verdict. I just hope and pray the child is ok and safe.”

It turns out Felder’s claim wasn’t that she was always insane. Her argument was that she was insane at the time of the incident, but her mental state improved during the trial.

After her arrest, Felder’s mental state improved enough for her to be found competent to stand trial. She then entered the plea saying she was insane at the time of the assault.

Felder’s case has been referred to Conrep, a state agency that determines where she will be placed for treatment. The Conrep report is expected by July 10.

Her attorney, Public Defender Marek Reavis, said previously that Felder will be sent to a mental hospital for a minimum of six months. After state doctors determine her sanity is fully restored, Felder will be returned to Humboldt County to undergo one year of outpatient treatment.

A no-contest plea is treated as a guilty plea in felony court, but it can’t be used against the defendant in a civil case.

I’ll admit I was disappointed to hear the not guilty verdict at first, but if the experts say she wasn’t sane, then so be it. We have to accept that. The important thing is that the girl is no longer under the care of a woman who might snap and murder her at any time.

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