Hanover Park woman pleads guilty to aggravated battery in death of newborn

  • Jessica Cruz

    Jessica Cruz

 
 
Updated 12/4/2014 6:33 PM

A Hanover Park woman pleaded guilty Thursday to a reduced charge of aggravated battery to a child in the death of a baby boy she gave birth to in the bathroom of a Streamwood resale shop.

In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors are recommending a 15-year prison sentence for Jessica Cruz, 22.

 

The plea came as jury selection was scheduled to begin in a retrial of Cruz on charges of first-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and concealment of a homicide. Cruz's first trial ended last month with Cook County Judge Bridget Hughes declaring a mistrial after jurors were unable to come to a unanimous verdict after deliberating more than 2½ days.

Cruz has been held at Cook County jail without bail since her arrest on Nov. 8, 2011. Four days earlier, according to prosecutors and trial testimony, she tied a plastic bag around the neck of the 6-pound, 11-ounce baby boy and left him in a trash can covered with toilet paper moments after giving birth in a Streamwood Salvation Army store restroom.

Cruz is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 22 by Hughes.

Prosecutors say Cruz, who kept her pregnancy secret from everyone except the baby's father, killed her baby intentionally because she didn't want him. They say Cruz feared her mother's angry reaction to Cruz's unwanted pregnancy, her second in 16 months, according to court records.

Defense attorneys argue that Cruz acted without intent or premeditation and that she was in severe denial over her pregnancy. They also say the baby did not survive the birth.

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During the first trial, the defense called Janice Ophoven, a pediatric forensic pathologist, who testified that not enough evidence existed to tell whether the baby survived his birth, a finding that contradicted that of Cook County Assistant Medical Examiner Ponni Arunkumar.

Arunkumar testified that air present in the baby's lungs, bowels and stomach indicated he drew breath and was born alive.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Cruz could have been sentenced to life in prison.

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