Charges against Freeman dropped

O.C. case involved death of newborn

September 20, 2007|By Gadi Dechter and Greg Garland | Gadi Dechter and Greg Garland,SUN REPORTERS

Prosecutors have dropped all charges against an Ocean City woman accused of killing a newborn twin several years ago, the Worcester County public defender's office said yesterday - apparently ending a gruesome case that drew national headlines this summer.

Christy Lynn Freeman, 37, was released yesterday afternoon from the county jail after a grand jury declined to return an indictment, the public defender's office said. She had been jailed since July 27.

The case involved a series of bizarre twists. First, Freeman was charged with first-degree murder after authorities found a stillborn baby wrapped in a blanket in her bathroom. Then, after investigators found three additional fetal remains in and around her home, the initial murder charge was dropped and she was charged with having murdered a baby three or four years earlier.

Reached at home last night, Freeman's longtime boyfriend, Ray Godman, said she was angry charges were ever brought against her. The case amounted to Ocean City police trying to put Freeman in jail "for the rest of her life for having a miscarriage," he said.

"They just ruined a prominent businesswoman's reputation up here by rushing to judgment," Godman said. "She committed no crime. Everybody knew that she committed no crime."

Godman, who lives with Freeman, said she was not available for comment. The couple owns the popular Classic Taxi cab company at the beach resort town.

He said Freeman would have more to say today.

Worcester County State's Attorney Joel J. Todd also is expected to discuss the case at a news conference today. He could not be reached for comment last night. But Kimberlee Schultz, a spokeswoman for the public defender, said the state's attorney dropped the charges "because the grand jury refused to indict."

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said the case against Freeman would have had to rely on years-old physical evidence - and also presented difficult legal questions under Maryland law. He noted that state law offers a degree of protection for women who abort their own children.

In July, police initially charged Freeman with murdering a baby born at 26 weeks. Todd made headlines - and raised legal eyebrows - when he proclaimed he would prosecute Freeman under a 2005 statute that criminalizes the killing of a "viable fetus."

But that law explicitly protects a mother from being held criminally liable for terminating her own pregnancy, prompting experts to question Todd's strategy.

Todd soon dropped those charges, replacing them with a traditional murder charge, saying that while being held Freeman confessed to killing a full-term baby she had given birth to several years earlier. Charging documents said Freeman told a detective she had given birth to twins and let at least one drown in the toilet before stowing it beneath the bathroom sink.

That was the charge dropped yesterday.

Turley speculated that the grand jury probably declined to issue an indictment because the forensic evidence would not support the murder charge. "The prosecutors needed a clear, positive finding of a death after birth," he said. "The forensic evidence would have to support those legal definitions."

That alone presents a difficult task, Turley added, "but when the remains are old and damaged, that magnifies the problem. ... It was a case that never seemed to get legal traction."

It didn't lack traction in the media.

Newspapers and national television crews descended on the family-oriented resort, camping out for days in front of the house shared by Godman and Freeman - sending Godman into hiding.

Meanwhile, beachgoers gawked from behind police lines as FBI investigators excavated 14 truckloads of topsoil from a vacant lot next door - only to find 81 cents and some animal bones. Several of Classic Taxi's vintage cabs were vandalized, and some drivers were heckled and threatened.

When she was denied bail, a visibly frightened Freeman told the judge that she wanted to "clear my name in this case." Now, Godman said, the couple is talking to lawyers about filing a civil suit.

"It's our turn," he said.

gadi.dechter@baltsun.com

greg.garland@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Chris Guy contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.