Jul 10, 2012 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
A 30-year-old town of Clay woman charged with suffocating her newborn daughter on Jan. 6, 2011, lodged a last-minute plea to first-degree manslaughter to avoid a trial for second-degree murder.
Nicole DeJaynes was arrested for murder eight days after an infant girl was found dead in a dumpster in the parking lot of the Pearl Street Apartments in the village of Liverpool. She was indicted by a county grand jury on Nov. 17, 2011.
DeJaynes pleaded guilty to the lesser charge on Monday morning, July 9, before County Court Judge Anthony Aloi in downtown Syracuse.
If convicted of second-degree murder, she could have been sentenced to a maximum of 25 years to life in prison. Even if a jury had convicted DeJaynes of first-degree manslaughter, Aloi could have sent her to state prison for up to 25 years.
Instead, on Monday Aloi promised he’d sentence her to 13 years behind bars while also ordering post-release supervision of two and a half years. Sentencing is scheduled for July 30.
She’ll be eligible for release in 11 years and two months, but her defense attorney, Thomas Ryan, estimated she could out of jail in less than a decade because she already served 18 months at the Corbett Justice Center as she awaited trial.
DeJaynes’ plea — known in the legal profession as an Alford plea — allows a defendant to plead guilty to a particular charge while making no statements whatsoever regarding specific facts or actions committed during the crime.
Ryan said his client, who claimed she was unaware that she was pregnant, panicked after the baby’s birth in the Hiddenbrook Terrace apartments.
“From the beginning she made a statement that she felt child was not alive,” Ryan said Monday. “She made efforts to try to revive the child, which did not result in any indication of life to her. So it has been her position from the beginning that she did not do anything intentionally to cause the death of this child, if in fact it was born alive.”
If she had proceeded to trial, DeJaynes’ claim of a stillbirth would have been a major point of contention.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Rick Trunfio said the county’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Robert Stoppacher, had determined that the baby was born alive and that asphyxiation caused her death.
“The issue from the defense’s point of view was always been that she did not know she was pregnant, she did not intentionally kill the baby and that the baby was not born alive,” Trunfio said after the plea was entered. “We would’ve produced evidence that after she suffocated the baby she discarded the baby in a dumpster. The issue in this case has always been whether the baby was born alive.”
The defense had hired a pathologist from the state of Delaware who was prepared to testify that the baby was stillborn.
Trunfio was relieved that a jury would not be called upon to determine the winner of a “battle of experts.”
If DeJaynes had gone to trial, said Liverpool Police Chief Bill Becker, the jury would never have believed she didn’t realize she was pregnant.
“The prosecution would’ve had the opportunity to convince jurors that it’s common sense that a woman who had already given birth three different times would certainly know she was pregnant,” Becker said. She would’ve recognized early signs of pregnancy, and “she would know what was happening when she went into labor.”
Several Liverpool policemen had prepared to testify at the anticipated trial. “We were ready,” Becker said. “We were proceeding as if our officers would be on the witness stand this week.”
The LPD’s Det. Michael Lemm coordinated the investigation which involved members of the Onondaga County Major Felony Unit, New York State Police investigators and Onondaga County Sheriff’s deputies. First responders at the scene were former LPD Officer Ken Hatter, who now works for Manlius Police Department, and Officer Sean Pierce.
Hatter had taken a statement from Liverpool resident Michael DeNardo, who discovered the newborn’s body while he scavenged a Waste Management trash bin for scrap wood about 10:30 p.m. Jan. 6, 2011. DeNardo initially thought the baby was a toy doll wrapped in a towel, he told Hatter, but soon realized he needed to call 911.
DeJaynes was arrested by LPD Sgt. Michael Manns on Jan. 14, 2011, after she suddenly left St. Joseph’s Health Center where she was being treated. Det. James Nightingale, a member of the county major felony unit from Camillus, took DeJaynes’ confession, Becker said.
Prior to DeJaynes’ arrest, the Liverpool Police Department named the baby Isabella Marie. A memorial Mass for the infant was celebrated March 26, 2011, at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church. The baby was buried in Liverpool Cemetery in a plot donated by the family of late Police Chief Floyd Harrison.
“This was law-enforcement team effort across the board,” Becker said.