Hanover Park woman sentenced to 15 years in death of newborn

  • Jessica Cruz

    Jessica Cruz

Updated 1/23/2015 5:18 AM

A judge's imposition of a 15-year sentence on a Hanover Park woman concludes a heartbreaking saga that began more than three years ago when employees discovered the lifeless body of her newborn in the restroom of a Streamwood Salvation Army store.

Cook County Judge Bridget Hughes today imposed the sentence on Jessica Cruz, the baby's 22-year-old mother, who pleaded guilty last month to an amended charge of aggravated battery of a child. The plea resulted from negotiations by prosecutors and defense attorneys following Cruz's November murder trial, which ended with a mistrial after jurors reported they were hopelessly deadlocked after deliberating 2 days.


Prosecutors said Cruz, then 19, tied a bag around the neck of the 6-pound, 11-ounce baby boy and left him in a trash can covered with paper towels moments after giving birth on Nov. 4, 2011 in the restroom of the Streamwood thrift store. Fearing her mother's reaction to the unplanned pregnancy, Cruz -- whose daughter was about 18 months old at the time -- kept her condition secret from everyone except the baby's father, who testified he received a text message from Cruz hours after she gave birth that read: "Hopefully one day you can forgive me."

"Although we believe this case involved first-degree murder, we acknowledge mitigation in this case," said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Karen Crothers. "We believe this sentence does not deprecate the seriousness of what (Cruz) did when she placed her baby upside down in a garbage can and left him there to die."

Defense attorneys claimed Cruz's baby did not survive the birth. Testifying on behalf of the defense, pediatric forensic pathologist Dr. Janice Ophoven insisted not enough evidence existed to determine whether the baby was born alive. Her testimony contradicted that of Cook County Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, who testified the baby died when the bag tied around his neck blocked blood flow to his brain. X-rays and other tests showed air in the newborn's lungs, bowels and stomach, which is evidence of a live birth, said Arunkumar, who ruled the death a homicide.

"Whether the defendant serves 5, 10, 15 or 20 years, she will live with the memory of losing her child for the rest of her life," said Cook County Assistant Public Defender Deana Binstock, saying Cruz attempted suicide while incarcerated at Cook County Jail. "We ask you to sentence (her) with mercy and compassion."

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In a statement to the court, Cruz acknowledged her mistakes, immaturity and impulsivity.

"I'm not blaming anybody. It was my responsibility. All I'm asking for is a second chance to be a part of my daughter's life again," said Cruz, describing her baby's death as "the worst pain I have ever experienced."

Pointing out it was prosecutors' decision to reduce charges in exchange for the guilty plea, Hughes indicated she would go along with the agreed-upon sentence even though she believed Cruz "committed first-degree murder."

Cruz received credit for the 38 months she has been in custody since her arrest Nov. 8, 2011. She must complete at least 85 percent of her sentence before she is eligible for parole.

"The result in this case struck the appropriate balance," Binstock said after the hearing. "When Jessica finishes her sentence she will be able to have a meaningful life."

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