A school employee who barricaded children in a San Diego-area classroom last week thought there were demons outside and wanted to protect the children, Deputy District Attorney Jessica Paugh said Monday.
Linda Lira, 31, of San Diego, is in custody facing three felony charges of false imprisonment of a minor and one misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest after what her attorney characterized as a breakdown at the Lemon Grove Academy where she works as an after-care assistant.
“Miss Lira suffers from emotional issues,” Defense attorney Corey Wlodarczyk said after his client's arraignment Monday.
Lira was taken to the hospital Wednesday evening after some strange behavior at the school.
Paugh said Lira was working as an after-care assistant when she started acting strangely at around 4 p.m.
Paugh said at the time, Lira said there were demons outside and that she wanted to protect the children ranging in age from nine to 11 years old. She locked herself in the room with the children and then moved to barricade the door.
As children tried to leave the room, they were injured according to the prosecutor.
Two minors suffered minor injuries, she said, when one child was slapped on the hand and two were pushed to the ground.
When staff intervened, Lira fought them, undressed and dressed again, upended desks and threw things around the room, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSO).
Lira was arrested and accused of 28 counts of felony child endangerment and false imprisonment initially. She was held at Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility, where bail was set at $2.1 million.
However, at her arraignment Monday, prosecutors filed just four charges against her saying any other allegations were still under investigation.
There were no charges filed regarding child endangerment, which lead the judge to order a reduction in bail.
Lira was now being held on $500,000 bail as requested by the prosecution.
Defense attorneys said they are still trying to piece together what happened that day in the classroom.
Wlodarczyk called the incident "uncharacteristic" for her and said he believed she had a breakdown triggered by something in her past.
According to some accounts, they said, Lira took off only her shoes in front of the children and later removed other pieces of clothing once she was with law enforcement. The SDSO told NBC 7 Lira undressed when staff intervened.
When asked how his client was handling the incident, Wlodarcyzk said, “She’s scared. She’s never been in the criminal justice system before.”
“She wants to take it one day at a time,” he said.
Attorneys from both sides said Lira did not have drugs in her system at the time of the incident.
Her maximum exposure if convicted would be more than four years.
Twenty-five family members attended the arraignment but did not want to address the media.
The suspect’s sister, Cathy Lira, previously told NBC 7 that she had never seen that kind of behavior from Lira before, though she had been making some strange comments recently about Lucifer and warriors protecting her.
Lira has declined an interview request from NBC 7.