PORTLAND - A woman who police said they rescued from a suicide attempt has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder charges in the death of one child and near drowning of another.
Amanda Jo Stott-Smith appeared briefly in court in handcuffs Wednesday to face the charges. An attorney entered the plea for her as she stood in a glass booth in the small courtroom used for arraignments.
Her 4-year-old son, Eldon Smith, died May 23 after falling off the Sellwood Bridge into the Willamette River, still chilly in late spring from mountain snow runoff.
His 7-year-old sister was rescued by a couple who live in a floating house and jumped into their boat to investigate. They found both children when they heard moans of distress in the early morning darkness.
At a news conference following the Wednesday arraignment, the homicide detective leading the investigation offered very few details and declined again to say how the children ended up in the water.
Detective Sgt. Rich Austria said the investigation is not complete and prosecutors are wary of revealing any more information in a potential death penalty case.
Austria declined to say whether police consider Stott-Smith mentally ill or offer any motive.
He did say that the suicide attempt by Stott-Smith during her arrest on the ninth floor of a downtown parking garage later in the morning on May 23 appeared to be her first. He did not say whether she left any note.
Police Chief Rosie Sizer said an officer saved Stott-Smith from falling off the parking garage by grabbing her wrists in a "heroic life-saving effort."
City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversees the Portland Police Bureau, also attended the news conference, said the death has spread "a profound sense of grief" around the community.