The motive for some violent crimes is easy to infer from the facts of the incident. In other crimes, the motive may be almost impossible to detect. In a recent incident at the Smithfield Foods Plant in Milan, the motive of the suspect seems almost impossible to deduce.
The facts of the incident provide almost no clues about why the defendant acted as alleged by the police. The defendant, a 28-year-old woman who lived in Kirksville, worked at the Smithfield Food Plant. According to police information obtained from courthouse documents, the woman gave birth to a boy in a restroom at the factory. After giving birth, police allege that the woman placed the child face-down in a toilet in one of the factory’s restrooms. The boy apparently showed signs of movement, but his mother sat on the toilet for relief from post-birth contractions. No one, including the mother, checked on the child for almost 30 minutes until a nurse employed at the factory entered the restroom. The nurse realized that the baby had most likely drowned in the toilet. Police were summoned, and the suspect was arrested.
An autopsy performed later found evidence consistent with drowning, according to police. The woman was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, felony abuse or neglect of a child. She is being held in the Daviess/DeKalb Regional Jail without bond. Jail records do not indicate whether the woman has retained an attorney.
A common reaction to these facts is disgust or horror. A mother putting her child in the toilet!! Yet a few steps away from the immediate facts may provide a different perspective. From the photograph published in the newspaper report, the woman appears to be a recent immigrant to the United States. Perhaps she was afraid of losing her job or being deported if the baby had been discovered. Perhaps she feared that she would be unable both work and care for the child. The woman may have other children that she cares for and that one more was just too many; at age 28, she was physically capable of bearing other children.
Another far less likely evaluation also comes to mind, although some may consider to be a bit far-fetched. The woman may not have known that the small amount of water visible in the toilet was sufficient to deprive the baby of oxygen. Perhaps the woman never formed the necessary intent to support a murder charge.
This type of case requires an experienced criminal defense attorney to evaluate the evidence, including the autopsy report. Perhaps the most important service that can be rendered by a knowledgeable attorney is completion of the fact investigation. Other defenses may emerge from a psychological evaluation of the suspect or interviewing family members and friends. While an outright acquittal may not appear to be a likely outcome based upon evidence disclosed to date, further investigation may provide evidence that can be used to reduce the severity of the criminal charges. Also, further evidentiary research may disclose facts that will provide the basis for a helpful plea agreement.