A 19-year-old Chicago woman, Jessica Cruz, was arrested after she 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.
Jessica Cruz, who was 19 when she gave birth in the store bathroom in Streamwood in 2011, had been accused of murder in the baby boy’s death, but the case ended in a hung jury in November. Then on the eve of her retrial, the Hanover Park woman pleaded guilty to aggravated battery of a child.
At Thursday’s hearing in Cook County’s Rolling Meadows branch court, Cruz told Judge Bridget Hughes she took responsibility for the death of her baby and asked for a second chance in the hope that she can be part of her daughter’s life.
“It was my responsibility to take care of (the baby) and I failed,” Cruz said, reading from a letter she wrote in jail. “I live with the pain of that every day.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Karen Crothers said she thought Cruz was guilty of murder but acknowledged there were mitigating factors involved.
“We believe this sentence would not deprecate the seriousness of the crime,” Crothers said.
The judge said she also believed Cruz had committed murder but agreed with the decision of prosecutors not to retry Cruz.
Cruz received the sentence requested by prosecutors, though she could have gotten up to 30 years in prison. She must serve 85 percent of the prison term and will receive credit for the 38 months she has been in custody since her arrest.
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.