A caretaker was sentenced to 31 years to life in prison today for stabbing to death a 70-year-old disabled woman she had been caring for in Pleasant Hill last year. Diane Warrick, 57, was convicted of second-degree murder in March for killing Mary Jane Scanlon inside her home at 1870 Elinora Drive on June 23. Her sentence was doubled because she had a prior strike for an armed robbery at a pharmacy in Colorado in 1988, and she received an additional year for using a knife to kill Scanlon. Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Leslie Landau could have given Warrick a lesser sentence of 15 years to life in prison but said she believed she had an obligation to the community to make sure Warrick remained in custody. “I think that this defendant is one of the most dangerous I have ever seen,” Landau said, citing what she saw as Warrick’s “absolute inability to control herself,” her lack of self-awareness and her inability to benefit from treatment. Warrick’s attorney, Terri Mockler, said Warrick had struggled with mental health issues all her life. She had previously been committed to a state mental hospital for life for a 1997 incident in which she shot at four Napa County sheriff’s deputies at Napa State Hospital while trying to rob the hospital’s pharmacy. But in 2002, a judge found that Warrick had regained her sanity and released her to an outpatient program in Contra Costa County. She was still under outpatient supervision when she killed Scanlon, Landau said. Evidence about Warrick’s prior commitment was not admitted at trial. During trial, prosecutor Jason Peck argued that Warrick’s anger toward Scanlon had been building for months. One witness testified that Warrick had told her that Scanlon had “messed with the wrong woman” and she was going to get her revenge. Warrick, who testified in her own defense, said she had been hallucinating when she stabbed Scanlon and believed her abusive father was attacking her. Mockler said that while Warrick admitted to killing Scanlon, she did not plan it and did not benefit from it. In fact, she said, when police arrested her the day after the murder, she had already made plans to kill herself, Mockler said. She said her client’s actions showed that she felt remorse for what she had done. Peck, however, contended that Warrick was planning to flee instead. He said that Warrick “brutally and savagely murdered” Scanlon. Landau said she believed this was a particularly tragic and violent crime because Scanlon was especially vulnerable. She only weighed 85 pounds and was paralyzed. She only had the use of one hand, which she used to try to fend off her killer. “As much as she was physically disabled, she was probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,” said Tatiana Scanlon, Scanlon’s niece by marriage. She said her aunt was had worked hard to be independent and live on her own, but because of her disability, she had to place a large amount of trust in the people she hired to help her. Claudine Thomas, who was Scanlon’s friend and helped her out when she was between caregivers, said that the fact that Warrick said she was hallucinating when she killed Scanlon “does not in any way absolve her responsibility for her actions.” Thomas said Warrick knew of the building hostility she had for Scanlon and, as a caregiver and someone responsible for protecting Scanlon from harm, she had a duty to recognize that she was in a bad situation and leave.
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