Girl who put baby in trash released

Judge deems teen rehabilitated after 8 months in facility

July 25, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

An Anne Arundel County teenager who was sentenced last year to a juvenile detention facility for throwing her newborn baby in the trash was ordered released yesterday after serving eight months for the baby's death.

The former Broadneck High School student, who is now 19, was released to the custody of her father after a county judge ruled that the young woman had been appropriately rehabilitated.

The woman's sentence last year had called for her to be held at a juvenile facility until she was 21.

In her ruling yesterday, Judge Nancy L. Davis-Loomis pointed to a Court of Appeals ruling in May, in which the court vacated the judgment of a Montgomery County judge who denied home visitation weekend passes to a 15-year-old convicted of second-degree murder in juvenile court of stabbing to death another teen, despite reports of the girl's "exceptional behavior and consistent nonviolent conduct over her 21 months of confinement."

Davis-Loomis said, "It is not necessarily easy to disconnect the offense from what has occurred. However, in juvenile court, that is what's mandated."

The judge was acting in response to a motion from the Department of Juvenile Services for a modification of the teenager's sentence. The department asked to end her commitment to the Thomas J.S. Waxter Center in Laurel, which began Nov. 16, and allow her to live with her father out of state and be on probation.

Prosecutors opposed the motion.

"Eight months at Waxter, and that took care of it all?" asked deputy state's attorney Laura S. Kiessling. "Your honor, I submit that is not enough."

Kiessling added, "She has lied to the police, lied to her family, lied to her friends. She has been untruthful over and over."

The girl was 17 in December 2005 when she gave birth in a toilet at her Arnold home and disposed of the baby boy's body in a trash can. She was initially charged as an adult, but the case moved to juvenile court, where she was found responsible, the equivalent of a guilty finding. If prosecuted as an adult, she could have received up to 30 years in prison.

For the first time in the series of court hearings held in the case since the baby was found dead, the girl, a slight blonde wearing a pink shirt and black sweater, addressed the court.

"I take full responsibility for my actions," she said. "In the past, I think I said I thought he was stillborn. I know he wasn't stillborn. ... I know I should have called 911. I was scared."

She added, "I cannot change the past. ... I know it's my fault that my son, Jordan, is not here today."

The Sun does not typically identify those who are tried in juvenile court. Her parents declined to comment after the hearing.

Prosecutors said during the trial that the girl avoided dealing with the pregnancy, hiding her belly and telling the baby's father that she had "taken care of it." She did not seek prenatal care and smoked and drank and searched online for information on how to cause a miscarriage, prosecutors said.

She refused a friend's pleas over the phone to call 911 when she went into labor Dec. 3, 2005. She gave birth alone on the bathroom floor while her mother was out.

The medical examiner could not conclusively rule how the baby died, theorizing he either drowned in the toilet where she left him for five to 10 minutes, or was smothered by a plastic bag she wrapped him in before stuffing him in the trash can. The cold weather might have also contributed to the death, the medical examiner said.

Defense attorney Howard L. Cardin disputed the prosecutor's assertions that she had not been adequately rehabilitated, saying the prosecutor needed to "face reality." Cardin cited a memorandum from the Department of Juvenile Services and a report form Waxter, including information from an addiction counselor and a mental health clinician, as well as a home evaluation report, as evidence that his client has done "not well - beautifully" at Waxter, and he noted that the staff there had "expressed the highest regard for her."

Cardin recalled that his client was "an emotional wreck" at the outset but had "learned from this situation" and had become a mentor to other girls at the center, taking college classes and making the dean's list.

"Many people come before this court who don't learn a thing from the criminal justice system. ... She has," Cardin said. "It has been a situation where the family has come together."

Angela Conyers Johnese, the juvenile justice director at Advocates for Children and Youth, a statewide nonprofit, called the judge's decision "a good step" in the case, citing the juvenile justice system's mission of rehabilitation rather than punishment.

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