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Note: This story was updated on Jan. 12 to correct the court in which the defendant appeared.

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Hamilton County Sheriff's Office / Rhonda Lorna Essenpreis

A woman arrested last month in the stabbing death of a Signal Mountain man appeared in court for the first time Tuesday.

Rhonda Lorna Essenpreis, 63, who has been charged with criminal homicide by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office in connection with the Dec. 29 slaying of Randall Paul Otto, 69, stood before Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Christine M. Sell in a preliminary hearing to establish probable cause before her charges were moved to the grand jury.

(READ MORE: Police Say woman stabbed, killed romantic partner in Signal Mountain home)

Essenpreis sat quietly during testimony with her head bowed throughout the hearing, which touched on issues of her mental capacity to stand trial, as well as whether the killing might have been premeditated.

When asked about Essenpreis' mental history, the woman's daughter, who asked not to be named by the media, told the judge her mother had experienced "periods of anxiety and ups and downs" since being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Meanwhile, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Detective Jason Maucere told the court the woman "did appear to be under the influence" on the evening of Otto's killing.

He also said that when police asked her to identify the dead man in the home, she knew who he was.

The detective also testified to seeing Trazodone pills, which are used to treat depression, on the kitchen counter, "some of which had bloodstains on them," he said. There were also empty pill bottles on the kitchen counter and throughout the residence.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County DA asking public to help locate more victims of alleged child rapist)

Following the presentation of testimony and evidence, Sell determined the case should move to the grand jury.

Essenpreis' family members declined to comment after the hearing.

(READ MORE: After Soddy-Daisy shooting, Hamilton County DA asks for review of whether political rival tampered with witness)

Around 3 a.m. on Dec. 30 Signal Mountain police officers responded to a report of a possible overdose on the 3600 block of Scarlet Maple Court.

Essenpreis refused to let officers into the residence, the arrest report said, and she was "acting suspiciously." After being let into the residence by a friend of Essenpreis' daughter, officers discovered Otto sitting on a chair in the living room with stab wounds to his chest and arm. Otto was pronounced dead at the scene.

Due to the nature of the scene, Signal Mountain police called the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office for assistance in the case. The sheriff's office detained Essenpreis and she was transported to Erlanger hospital for evaluation for possible cuts and for a drug overdose.

Contact La Shawn Pagán at lpagan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.

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