A former Layton woman charged with murdering her foster child for her insurance was declared competent Thursday to stand trial in 2nd District Court.
Tonya Vosburgh, 34, and her husband, John "Rick" Vosburgh, 44, now face the death penalty on charges of murder, aggravated arson and insurance fraud in the March 3, 1993, death of their foster daughter, Bobbi Jo Womack.Womack, 18, died in a garage fire at the Vosburgh home, which prosecutors say the Vosburghs deliberately set in the hope of collecting on a $100,000 life insurance policy they had taken out on the disabled girl.
The case has dragged on for 21/2 years as prosecutors, defense attorneys and a battery of doctors and psychiatrists debated Tonya Vosburgh's mental status.
Ironically, it may be her taste for horror movies and British comedies that decided the issue.
The three felony charges against the Vosburghs were filed in May 1993 and the two were arraigned, but never entered a plea, in 2nd Circuit Court. Before their preliminary hearing, Tonya Vosburgh suffered a head injury in a fall while carrying a basket of laundry in their Woods Cross apartment complex.
Doctors discovered a small aneurism in a blood vessel in her head and operated to repair it, according to court testimony. She suffered a series of strokes after the operation that defense attorneys maintain left her wheelchair-bound with the mental capacity of a 10-year-old, and unable to aid in shaping her defense.
But evaluations by a psychologist and two forensic psychiatrists, the latest completed just this month and presented in court this week, concluded Tonya Vosburgh was faking some if not all of her symptoms.
And batteries of physical tests including an EEG brain wave scan determined there is no neurological basis for her seizures, leading doctors to conclude they are "pseudo seizures."
Tonya Vosburgh's competency hearing was halted Monday afternoon when, testifying on the stand, she suffered another apparent seizure, toppling out of the witness chair and onto the floor.
Paramedics treated her and took her to Lakeview Hospital, where she was treated and discharged three hours later. Her hearing continued Thursday, where Judge Jon Memmott made his ruling of competency.
Memmott cited the testimony of the psychiatrists, the MRI and CT scans, EEG tests and several hours of videotape and audiotape surreptitiously shot by a Latyon police detective in February in his decision.
One of the tapes shows Tonya Vosburgh on the front porch of her apartment, chatting with neighbors for over an hour, the judge said. During that conversation she speaks clearly and articulately, not using the impaired speech she used in court, which attorneys called "baby talk."
She discussed movie plot lines, television shows, the weather and temperature, her own lower-than-normal body temperature and its medical implications, and the difference between American and British comedies, Memmott said Thursday.
The tape shows her laughing and joking with neighbors about going to a store and how the clerks treated her after thinking she was hearing-impaired, the judge said, noting her use of that term shows special sophistication.
The normal speech pattern, display of memory, and ability to differentiate things as abstract as a comedy style and the difference between an R-rated and X-rated movie show a marked sophistication not displayed in her court appearances, the judge said.
Defense attorney Earl Spafford said after the hearing he will not dispute or appeal the ruling and will begin preparing her defense.