POCATELLO, Idaho – A 22-year-old woman has been sentenced to two years in prison in the death of her newborn baby, who was found in a Pocatello trash bin.
Michelle R. Smith sobbed as she apologized Monday at a sentencing hearing before 6th District Judge Ron Bush.
“I’m extremely remorseful,” Smith said. “I deal with it every day. … But mostly I’m sorry for that little girl.”
A homeless man found the body of the newborn wrapped in plastic in February 2003, and police gave her the name Angelique Hope and money was donated to buy a headstone.
Smith was not charged until August 2004, when a blood test confirmed she was the baby’s mother. She originally was charged with involuntary manslaughter, but last month pleaded guilty to a charge of felony injury to a child. The crime is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Smith had told investigators she gave birth into a toilet bowl and lost consciousness for 45 minutes. She claimed that when she woke up, the baby was dead.
At a preliminary hearing last September, a forensic pathologist testified that the baby likely died of hypothermia, which would indicate the child was alive when put in the trash bin near Smith’s apartment.
“There’s only one person in this courtroom who knows what actually happened that night and that’s this woman over here,” Bannock County Deputy Prosecutor Vic Pearson said Monday, pointing to Smith during her sentencing hearing.
Smith could have given the baby up for adoption, given her to the father or taken her to the hospital under the Idaho Safe Haven Act, which specifies a parent can give the baby to the state with no questions asked, said Pearson.
The baby’s father, who asked not to be identified, told the judge he knew nothing of the pregnancy.
“The court has protected (Smith’s) rights, but who has protected the rights of my daughter?” he said.
Smith, who was valedictorian of her high school class in Salmon, wanted to be the perfect child for her parents, said her attorney, Randy Schulthies. He said she suffers from nightmares and post traumatic stress disorder.
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