The September trial for a woman accused of killing her 92-year-old housemate, a renowned sculptor, in Kensington last year will be postponed, according to a court hearing Wednesday.
Julia Birch, now 27, was charged by Montgomery County police with killing sculptor Nancy Frankel on July 28, 2021, in the home they shared on Spruell Drive. Police have said Birch told detectives in an interview she suffocated Frankel to death.
According to Frankel’s family members, the two women met through the Catholic Worker Movement, and Birch was living with Frankel to keep her company.
Birch, who has been charged with first-degree murder, is being held at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center – a maximum-security psychiatric hospital in Howard County.
Birch was found competent to stand trial earlier this year, but is pleading not criminally responsible. A not criminally responsible plea refers to a defendant’s state of mind at the time of the alleged crime, whereas competency refers to a defendant’s current state of mind.
During a status hearing in Circuit Court on Wednesday, Birch attorney Elizabeth Zoulias of the county Public Defender’s Office described the most recent doctor’s report from the Maryland Department of Health as “confusing,” but noted the report states that doctors believe Birch has an “unspecified schizophrenic spectrum and other psychotic disorder” as well as a “major depressive disorder.”
Birch’s trial was scheduled to begin Sept. 6, but Zoulias asked Circuit Court Judge James Bonifant for more time in order for the defense to retain a medical expert.
Bonifant asked Birch, who appeared remotely from Perkins, if she agreed to the postponement of the trial and she said yes. He then agreed to delay the trial without setting a new date. Another status hearing in the case is set for Aug. 23.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org