FARMINGDALE — The woman accused of killing her 4-year-old daughter by smashing her head and cutting her throat suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, which worsens when she does not take her medication, relatives say.
As Maria Austin awaits an indictment following the gruesome slaying of her daughter two weeks ago, two distinctly different personalities of the former Augusta woman are coming into view.
One is the woman who police say killed Miranda Paige Duplin. She also feared that nonexistent occupants of an empty apartment were spying on her, and said a child in her neighborhood was being tortured.
The same Maria Austin spent four years in the Air Force without a blemish on her record and finished a year of college. She was so generous that she left a bag of Christmas gifts hanging on her neighbor’s doorknob.
“She was a lonely person,” said Shirley Harrington, a neighbor and acquaintance of Austin’s. “She didn’t have any friends, and I think she trusted me.”
Austin, who is 34, was generous, Harrington said.
“I almost didn’t want to tell Maria that I liked something, because she would go out and buy it for me, and she didn’t have no money,” she said.
A Christmas wreath leans against the front of the corner unit Austin shared with her daughter, and a handwritten message says: “God bless you Miranda. May you rest safely in God’s arms. Good-bye, Angel.”
Meanwhile, Austin is in the Kennebec County Jail in Augusta, undergoing psychological tests that may determine if she is competent to stand trial and if she can be held criminally responsible for her daughter’s Dec. 19 death.
Alice Rafuse, one of Austin’s 11 brothers and sisters, said the family is “still grieving, still mourning. We want to tell her story; we just can’t right now.”
But she said Austin suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.
Harrington said Austin sometimes talked of aliens, and once refused a dinner invitation at Harrington’s apartment because she said “my rugs are full of bugs, that she could feel them under her feet.”
But later, she left a bag of Christmas presents at Harrington’s door.
Harrington said Austin had lost custody of two sons from a broken marriage and she was terrified of losing Miranda. She would not let her little girl play with other children, and rarely even let her out of her sight.
Austin had complained to the managers of the apartment complex where she lived that people were “laying wire” in the vacant apartment next to hers so that they could spy on her.
Austin also complained to several people that neighborhood children were tampering with the shock absorbers on her car.