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Case dismissed against Shorewood teen in infant death

Crocker Stephenson

Feb. 20, 2012

A judge Monday dismissed a delinquency petition against a 17-year-old Shorewood girl who, having given birth to a boy in her bathtub, hid his body in her bedroom and eventually buried him in a flower bed behind her house.

The case, Children's Court Judge Karen Christenson said, turned on the issue of intent: The law required the state to prove not only that the girl concealed the infant's birth, but also that she did so with the specific intent of keeping officials from determining if the child was born dead or alive.

While the girl unquestionably tried to conceal the birth, Christenson said, she may have acted simply to avoid alienating her friends or disappointing her mother.

The girl told police that the baby was conceived in early winter of 2010, around the time of her 16th birthday. She said that although she did not gain weight or feel sick, she began to suspect she was pregnant in July 2011.

She said "she found it hard to move around," the petition says, "but was far too busy and didn't have time to worry about anything too much."

The girl, the petition says, did not see a doctor and did not take a pregnancy test.

The girl delivered the boy on Aug. 17, as she soaked in a tub to relieve severe back pain. She told authorities the birth was unexpected and that she was "in complete shock."

Shorewood police testified at the hearing that the girl placed the baby on the floor of the bathroom and then used her phone - not to call for help - but to Google how to cut the umbilical cord.

Unable to find the information she needed, she cut the cord with a pair of scissors.

She told investigators that she thought the baby was dead but couldn't be sure.

She put its body in a shoe box, which she hid in the bottom drawer of her nightstand. She then went into her living room to watch television.

After about a week to 10 days, the girl's mother complained about a foul smell coming from the bedroom.

The girl placed the shoe box containing the baby in several plastic bags and then, as her mother slept, buried the bundle in a small flower bed behind her house.

In September, the girl's mother noticed a foul smell coming from the garden and discovered the remains.

The medical examiner office ruled that, because of decomposition, it could not determine if the baby had been born dead or alive.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Hanson appeared shocked by Christenson's decision but had no comment.

The girl's attorney, Gilbert Urfer, praised the judge for making a tough call.

"I think this is just a tragic case for everyone concerned," he said.

"Not all tragedies are crimes."

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