Woman pleads guilty in baby's drowning death

October 17, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,melissa.harris@baltsun.com

A West Baltimore woman pleaded guilty yesterday to the involuntary manslaughter of her newborn son, whom she delivered in a toilet while she was high on heroin, according to the prosecutor and defense attorney.

Jeanine Alice Blackwell, 34, formerly of the 300 block of S. Monroe St., could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison in the March 9 drowning.

Blackwell had told police that she did not know she was pregnant, although she has a 12-year-old child. But Assistant State's Attorney Julie Drake revealed yesterday that Blackwell signed a form on Sept. 10, 2007, stating that she was leaving her job at a bakery because she was pregnant. Drake also said that before the infant's death, she had told a friend she was pregnant.

Blackwell's attorney, Ilene Frame, said her client has had four or five miscarriages because of a severe heroin addiction. Blackwell has injected drugs so frequently that she has difficulty opening her hands and has required multiple surgeries on her forearms, Frame said.

According to Drake and Frame, Blackwell gave birth to the boy in the bathroom of her first-floor apartment. She called a friend into the bathroom to help her into bed. Later, her friend, who also was high on heroin, went next door and told Blackwell's neighbor, Walter Lambie, 56, "We got a problem."

"They showed me the toilet, and I said, 'We got a problem?' I told her, 'You've got a problem,' " Lambie said yesterday.

Using gloves, Lambie said, he removed the newborn, wrapped it in a towel and urged the women to call 911. Hours later, Blackwell did, but only after she and her friend had cleaned the bathroom. Lambie said that he saw heroin in the apartment.

"They were going at it really heavy," he said. "Big time. Both of them."

Drake said that an autopsy revealed that the boy had air in his lungs, meaning he had taken a breath. A medical examiner ruled the death homicide by drowning and hypothermia. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 9.

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