Charge Dismissed Against Shorewood Girl Accused of Burying Infant
After daylong trial, juvenile judge says there was no evidence of intent in "tragic case."
The 17-year-old Shorewood girl accused of burying her newborn baby in a flowerbed broke into tears Monday as she learned her fate following a trial in Milwaukee County Children’s Court.
The one count of concealing a corpse the girl was facing would be dismissed.
"The fact is that not all tragedies are crimes, and I think that the justice system worked appropriately in this case,” her attorney, Gilbert Urfer, said.
After 5-1/2 hours of testimony from Shorewood police officers and detectives, the forensic investigator assigned and the father of the infant, Judge Karen Christenson said the state failed to prove both of the two points needed for a conviction: that there was intent to conceal a corpse as well as intent to conceal whether the child was born dead or alive.
A request to dismiss the case by Urfer was granted when the judge said the state did not prove the second point.
“There was no evidence of intent,” Christenson said. “This is just a tragic case for everyone concerned.”
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Hanson declined to comment.
Hanson called several witnesses during Monday's trial, painting a picture of the events leading up to trial.
Shorewood police testified the girl gave birth to a full-term baby boy in her bathtub on Aug. 17.
Detective Christie Preston testified the girl gave birth in a bathtub containing some water. The infant wasn't breathing or moving.
“She said the baby came out, and she didn’t know what to do," Preston said. "She said the baby was underwater at that point for a minute or two."
She didn't know how to cut the umbilical cord, and searched the Internet on her cell phone for instructions, though it didn't help. She then grabbed a pair of hair scissors and cut the cord.
She attempted CPR, but got no response.
The girl, who didn't testify Monday, then stashed the infant's body in her nightstand in her bedroom for at least a week, and eventually put the body into several plastic bags and placed it in a hole in the flowerbed by the family's home.
After her mother discovered the corpse on Sept. 15, while taking out recyclables, the mom phoned police.
Forensic investigator Michael Martin testified that when he arrived on the scene and subsequently examined the corpse, it was in a state of advanced decomposition. A Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s office report concluded the cause of death to be undetermined because of the extreme decomposition.
The girl didn't call police because she was nervous about what her mother and friends would think and she "thought a lot about her future," Preston said.
The teenager didn't know she was pregnant, according to Preston, and even the newborn's father testified Monday he didn't know she was pregnant, though he said he hadn't talked to her for several months.
Preston said the girl was very active in school activities, exercising a lot and watching what she ate. Preston said the girl said she noticed her weight increasing in July, but had no clue it was a result of pregnancy. She started feeling sick in early August.
The father said he and the girl interacted sexually three or four times. Assistant District Attorney Paul Tiffin informed Shorewood police in December that the 18-year-old would not be brought up on charges for sexual assault, according to Shorewood police. DNA testing confirmed he was the infant's father.
Many of the officers, when asked about the teenager’s demeanor while being questioned, said she seemed stoic and calm and expressed little remorse for the incident.
Urfer attempted to discredit Shorewood police who testified and the forensic investigator, questioning their interview techniques and bringing into question what he said were inconsistencies between quotes in the police report and actual audio recordings.
Urfer said the girl has been cleared of all charges and her family is ready to move on.
"Justice was done," he said.
"This was a very horrible tragedy for herself and for her family and they are working to move through it and get on with it," Urfer said. "At least they can do that now, with this in the rear-view mirror."