A Maryland woman who faced 20 years in prison after she was charged with one count of second-degree murder and two counts of manslaughter in the deaths of her newborn babies is only headed to prison for 10 years. Melissa Schrae Bowen, 34, of Prince Frederick, Maryland, drowned her newborns in the toilet because she was unable to afford an abortion.
On November 16, 2012, Calvert County authorities were alerted that a dead newborn had been found in a suitcase in the attic of a La Plata home, and it was determined that the infant had died in Huntingtown before Bowen brought his body to the home.
The criminal indictment indicates the first baby was killed between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2007, and the second between Oct. 24, 2011 and Jan. 31, 2012. Assistant State’s Attorney Kathryn Marsh said one of the babies was discovered by Bowen’s mother in March 2012, and the other was found in an attic.
Bowen’s mother placed a 911 call March 8, 2012, after she found a deceased baby boy, with his umbilical cord attached, in a trash bag in the trunk of her daughter’s car. Although Bowen — who had hidden both her pregnancies — originally stated she had miscarried at five months and had not known she was pregnant, an autopsy revealed the baby weighed 6 pounds and her story could not be true.
There were no medical or scientific reasons why both babies should not have been born alive, officials said, and neither tested positive for illicit substances.
Bowen attended a court appearance, during which prosecutors offered and she accepted a plea agreement that could have netted her 20 years in the state penitentiary for the involuntary manslaughter of “Baby Boy A” and “Baby Boy B.” The plea admits the state has sufficient evidence to prosecute but allows the defendant to not admit any guilt.
Marsh said both infants had been born, alive, into toilets, where their mother, who has a history of substance abuse, made no immediate move to touch them or to clear their airways. In the case of “Baby Boy A,” she eventually submerged him in a bathtub filled with water.
However, that plea agreement was brokered down to 10 years, according to a news report:
Calvert County Circuit Court Judge Marjorie Clagett sentenced Melissa Schrae Bowen, of Huntingtown, to 10 years at the Division of Corrections.
Police originally charged Bowen with second-degree murder after her two baby boys were found dead on separate occasions. The one child was found in a trash bag in the truck of Bowen’s car with the umbilical cord still attached; the other child was found in the attic of a La Plata home in a suitcase.
According to court files, Bowen accepted an Alford plea, which concedes the state has enough evidence to find a guilty verdict, but the defendant does not admit guilt to the charges.
The plea agreement lowered the severity of the charges; Bowen was charged with two counts of manslaughter, instead of second-degree murder.
The court recommended Bowen serve at the Patuxent Institute in Jessup, Maryland.
Judge Clagett sentenced Bowen to 10 years with three years suspended for count one of manslaughter and 10 years with seven years suspended for count two of manslaughter; Bowen is eligible for parole.
Subsequent conversations with investigators revealed that Bowen did not know who the father of “Baby Boy B” was, that she has continued to drink alcohol and snort cocaine and Percocet for the duration of that pregnancy and that she had known she was pregnant for months prior to delivery but had been unable to afford an abortion.
Bowen also indicated that she knew both babies had been born alive, that she was depressed and overwhelmed by the three children she already had and that each baby had lain on his side in the toilet with his nose and mouth submerged before being removed.