MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A doctor who evaluated a Memphis mother accused of stabbing her four young children to death in 2016 testified Thursday that Shanynthia Gardner suffered from “severe mental illness.”

In at times tense testimony today in day three of Shanynthia Gardner’s murder trial, clinical psychologists testified they did not believe Gardner comprehended what she was doing at the time of the 2016 killings and was delusional.

Dr. Wyatt Nichols gave his testimony in the third day of Gardner’s trial. He said Gardner’s paranoia possibly started when she was in her teens.

Gardner is charged with murder, but her defense team is arguing that she should be considered not guilty by reason of insanity.

Moments before the stabbings, Gardner was getting her children ready to go to the grocery store, according to court testimony. Her 6-month-old baby was already in a car seat.

She saw a man outside the apartment, and thought he would rape and harm her kids, Nichols said. That’s when she allegedly stabbed them.

“In her mind, she was saving her children from being tortured and turned into sex slaves,” Nichols said. “In her delusional state she thought she was doing right.”

Prosecutors, however, alleged that the deaths may have been revenge killings over affairs she believed her husband was having. In cross examination, they said the one child who escaped unharmed had a different biological father than the four who were killed.

They also said there are inconsistencies in Gardner’s stories, from what she’s told Dr. Nichols and another doctor. 

Dr. Phillip Resnick — who was a consultant in the Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Kaczynski, Timothy McVeigh and Andrea Yates cases — was called to the stand by Gardner’s defense.

Resnick said Gardner told him it was a joint decision between herself and husband for her to stop taking her medication. She said it made her “like a noodle” and she had a tough time taking care of all their young children on it.

Resnick said Gardner’s husband at the time sympathetic to his wife’s mental illness, and never said he thought she killed the children to get back at him for infidelity.

On July 1, 2016, authorities discovered Tallen, Sya, Sahvi and Yazhi Gardner dead inside the family’s home near Hacks Cross Road and East Shelby Drive. All four had been stabbed to death.

Neighbors said Gardner’s 7-year-old had come running out of the house, screaming for help.

Gardner took the stand right before closing arguments to say she understood her right not to testify and did not want to testify. Judge James Lammey will decide what happens next for Gardner and says he may have a verdict Monday.

This story will be updated.