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Pennsylvania woman plans to use insanity defense in slaying and dismemberment of parents

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A suburban Philadelphia woman accused of fatally shooting her parents and dismembering their bodies with a chain saw has notified officials that she intends to use an insanity defense.

Defense attorneys say in a recent court filing that Verity Beck, 44, of Abington, “was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act she was doing, or that she did not know that what she was doing was wrong,” The Mercury newspaper of Pottstown reported Monday.

Beck's trial in Montgomery County Court was originally set to begin next month but is now scheduled for April to allow prosecutors to have their own psychiatrist evaluate the defendant.

Prosecutors earlier announced they would not seek the death penalty against Beck, who has pleaded not guilty to two counts each of first- and third-degree murder, abuse of a corpse, and possessing instruments of crime — a firearm and a chain saw.

The bodies of Reid Beck, 73, and Miriam Beck, 72, were found in January 2023 after their son told Abington police he had gone to his parents’ home to check on them. He said he saw a body on a floor, covered with a bloody sheet, and a chain saw nearby. Prosecutors later said both victims had a single gunshot wound to the head.

The man told police that he spoke to his sister, who also lived there, and that when he asked whether something bad had happened to their parents, she responded, “Yes.” Verity Beck, a former teacher at a special education school in Lower Merion Township, allegedly told her brother that things at home had “been bad.”

Prosecutors have alleged that Beck was facing financial difficulties and that her parents had accused her of having stolen from them. Defense attorney James Lyons told The Philadelphia Inquirer earlier that he would seek to have prosecutors barred from using as evidence text exchanges between the victims and the defendant concerning finances.