PORTLAND – A mother accused of murdering her 4-year-old son and trying to kill her 7-year-old daughter by forcing them off a bridge into the Willamette River lost a custody battle over the children with their father a month earlier, according to court documents.
Amanda Jo Stott-Smith and her husband, Jason F. Smith, fought for custody of the children after he left their Tualatin home last year and moved to Eugene, according to court papers.
Police say her 4-year-old son, Eldon Jay Rebhan Smith, and the boy’s sister were either tossed 75 feet from a bridge over the Willamette hours before daybreak on Saturday or fell in. They were pulled out of the water during a search. The girl survived and was hospitalized.
Although police have not revealed details of how the two ended up in the water, they are holding Stott-Smith responsible. No possible motive has been given in the case.
A self-described “stay-at-home” mother, Stott-Smith was arraigned Tuesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Standing in a glass booth, a distraught Stott-Smith heard the charges against her: aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder. In a voice that could hardly be heard in the crowded courtroom, she said, “I understand.”
A judge ordered that the 31-year-old remain in custody.
Also on Tuesday, a Washington County court placed the 7-year-old girl – who has not been identified – into the temporary custody of the state.
Court records show the mother has a history of domestic violence.
In March, Stott-Smith filed for separation in Washington County Circuit Court from Smith.
She said her husband left the family’s home in Tualatin in September and moved to Eugene.
She also said that in February, her husband took the children from her Tualatin home to Eugene. She petitioned for sole custody of the children.
A judge ruled at the end of April that the children should stay in Eugene, and Stott-Smith could not visit the children at their father’s home without his permission.
“It is in the best interest of the children that their current school schedule not be disturbed at this time,” the judge wrote.
At some point, the father filed a report that the children had gone missing. The information helped authorities identify the children after they were pulled out of the Willamette.
Residents reported hearing the girl’s screams on the river just after 1 a.m. Saturday and called police.
When police and rescue workers arrived they could also hear the screams, moving downstream.
A man and his wife who had joined the search effort in their boat found the dead boy and the girl.
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