The teen-ager said she was panicked: at age 17, she had given birth to a baby few knew she was carrying. After she went into labor on a toilet and was unable to reach a confidante, a plan to leave the baby boy at a church had gone awry, her lawyer said.
But an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday that it was "inconceivable" that the former Broadneck High School student could not understand what she was doing when she left the newborn submerged in the toilet for as long as 10 minutes, then disposed of him in a trash can on a cold night in December 2005.
Judge Nancy Davis-Loomis found the teenager, now 18, responsible in second-degree murder yesterday and declared her "delinquent," the juvenile equivalent of a guilty verdict
The Sun is not identifying the teenager because she was tried as a juvenile.
Though she was originally charged as an adult -- and faced a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison -- the teenager now faces a possibility of serving in a juvenile facility or on probation until she turns 21.
"It is inconceivable that she would not understand that leaving the baby there and taking no actions ... would not lead to the child's death," Davis-Loomis said.
Now living in Baltimore County, the petite blonde leaned forward and lowered her head as the verdict was read, then covered her face with her hands and sobbed.
She was ordered to serve community detention -- essentially house arrest -- and will undergo mental-health evaluations before being sentenced this month.
"The whole case is very sad," said Deputy State's Attorney Laura S. Kiessling. "There was no way that this [case] was going to result in a happy ending."
During a trial, prosecutors said the teenager had long intended to rid herself of the infant and showed a pattern of "long-term avoidance" of dealing with her pregnancy.
She smoked and drank, did not seek prenatal care and searched online for ways to cause a miscarriage. She also refused a friend's pleas to call 911 or to accept a ride to the hospital, and the next day showed off her slimmed figure, Kiessling said.
Defense attorney Howard L. Cardin maintained that the teenager was "in shock" and incapable of seeking medical help after giving birth. A friend who knew of her pregnancy could not be reached by phone; meanwhile, her mother, a civilian Anne Arundel County police employee, who was not aware of the child, arrived home as the teen searched for a solution.
Davis-Loomis said yesterday that the teenager's actions, such as mopping the bathroom floor, did not suggest she was paralyzed by fear.
"She was able to act, able to think and able to move as she needed to to accomplish what she wanted to accomplish," said Davis-Loomis.
A medical examiner ruled that the baby, whom the teen-ager had planned to name, either drowned in the toilet where she kept him for five to 10 minutes or smothered in the plastic bag she used to place him in the garbage can outside her home. The cold might have also contributed to the death, the official said.
The defense lawyer declined to comment yesterday. "This is a juvenile matter and doesn't deserve any comment," Cardin told reporters outside the courthouse.
The teenager was initially indicted by a grand jury as an adult. But social workers urged that she be tried as a juvenile, and Davis-Loomis agreed. Juvenile records are closed to the public, but hearings on felony-level charges are open unless the judge closes them.
Social workers said no appropriate facility for her exists in Maryland, and she could be placed in an out-of-state facility or put on the equivalent of probation.
In January, Kiessling said she found the notion of probation for a killer "disturbing."