March 10, 1998 in Nation/World

Teen Pleads Guilty In Death Of Newborn He Will Testify Against His Former High School Sweetheart

Teddie Weyr Associated Press
 

Two former high school sweethearts accused of murdering their newborn son at a motel have turned on each other.

Brian Peterson, 19, pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter and agreed to testify against Amy Grossberg.

His plea came a week after Grossberg’s lawyers asked for separate trials and sought to introduce evidence blaming Peterson for the death.

Peterson believed the baby was stillborn and put it in a plastic bag in the motel trash bin after Grossberg ordered, “Get rid of it. Get rid of it,” said Peterson’s lawyer Russell Gioiella.

“Brian has explained at great length the infant didn’t show any signs of life,” Gioiella said. “Brian had no intent to harm the baby in any way.”

Grossberg’s lawyers have said that polygraph results they want admitted into evidence indicate Ms. Grossberg never saw the baby and believed she had a miscarriage. Any criminal responsibility for disposing of the baby’s body could then fall on Peterson.

The two 19-year-olds from well-to-do Wyckoff, N.J., were arrested after their son’s November 1996 death in a motel near the University of Delaware, where Grossberg was a freshman. Peterson was a freshman at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.

The baby died of multiple skull fractures and shaking, the medical examiner’s office said.

Peterson could have gotten the death penalty or life in prison if convicted of murder. Instead, he could receive up to 10 years for manslaughter. No sentencing date was set.

Grossberg’s trial is set for May 4.

The two teens had exchanged smiles during early court appearances but avoided eye contact at Friday’s hearing, during which Grossberg’s lawyers asked for a separate trial. Grossberg was not in court Monday.

A nervous-looking Peterson answered, “Yes, sir” when Judge Henry duPont Ridgely asked him if he understood the repercussions of his plea. His mother wept.

Both teens have been living with their families, free on $300,000 bail but monitored electronically.

Grossberg’s attorney, Robert Tanenbaum, said he was not surprised by Peterson’s plea.

“It doesn’t change our strategy at all,” he said. “We’re interested in trying the case, getting the truth out and getting back her life.” Gioiella said of his client: “Brian is not anyone’s adversary. He has a duty to testify truthfully.”


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