A 19-year-old Chicago woman, Jessica Cruz, was arrested after she allegedly strangled her son to death and then dumped his body in a trash can after giving birth at a local retail store.
However, even though the videotape of her confession was played in court, Cruz’s case led to a mistrial because when she was asked again if she was guilty of killing she said, “Yes, but I don’t remember tying him up like that.” She also said she “thinks” he was alive when she killed him. During the trial, the defense argued that her baby didn’t survive the birth.
Now, the judge has ordered a new trial and the defense has accepted a plea deal, which will cause murder charges to be dropped in exchange for Cruz pleading guilty to aggravated battery to a child.
Tragically, the young mother admitted in testimony that she was very afraid that her mother would find out that she had a baby. Although she didn’t say that is the reason she allegedly killed her son, she mentioned it several times and it seemed to be part of her motivation.
A Hanover Park woman whose murder trial in the death of her newborn baby ended in a hung jury last month pleaded guilty in Cook County Court on Thursday to a lesser charge.
The re-trial of Jessica Cruz was to begin Friday in Rolling Meadows branch court, but Cruz pleaded guilty to aggravated battery to a child, avoiding a second court fight, according to her attorneys.
Murder and other charges were dropped in exchange for the guilty plea. Judge Bridget Hughes set sentencing for Jan. 22, and Cook County prosecutors have recommended a 15-year prison sentence.
Cruz, 22, could receive from six to 30 years.
Hughes declared a mistrial in the case last month when a jury could not reach a verdict after several days of deliberations. Prosecutors decided to retry Cruz; Cruz’s defense lawyers sought a plea agreement.
“It was Jessica’s decision to do this,” said Cook County Assistant Public Defender Dan Naranjo. “We were ready to go to trial and we continue to believe that she was not guilty of first-degree murder.”
Cruz was arrested in November 2011 after employees of a Salvation Army thrift store in Streamwood found the body of a newborn boy in a restroom trash container. Cruz told police she was trying to hide her pregnancy and the baby from her mother, who was waiting for her in the store and did not know about the birth.
Prosecutors alleged Cruz, who has been in jail since her arrest, strangled the baby with the plastic straps of a shopping bag. Defense lawyers argued that the baby did not survive the birth, which occurred in a toilet.