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Woman faces murder charge in infant son's death

October 25, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

A Hagerstown woman accused of killing her baby son after giving birth in her bathtub will face five charges - including murder - in Washington County Circuit Court, a judge ruled Thursday.

After a preliminary hearing, Washington County District Judge R. Noel Spence decided there is probable cause for charges against Patricia Ann Stotelmyer, 25, of 28 Wakefield Road, to proceed in Circuit Court.

Stotelmyer was charged on Sept. 27 with second-degree murder, manslaughter, reckless endangerment, child abuse by a parent resulting in death and child abuse.

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On Sept. 21, while she was taking a bath at home, Stotelmyer allegedly gave birth to a boy who was about two months premature. Stotelmyer cut the umbilical cord and left the bathroom to get a towel, leaving the baby in the tub and the faucet running as the water drained out, according to charging documents.

Detective Sgt. Michael King of the Hagerstown Police Department testified Thursday that Stotelmyer wrapped the towel around the baby's head and torso, leaving his feet sticking out. She put the body in a brown plastic bag, which she placed inside a larger black bag with other trash, King testified.

"She felt the baby was deceased at the time," King said, referring to statements Stotelmyer allegedly made to police.

Stotelmyer took the large black trash bag downstairs and tied it, then laid down, charging documents say.

Charging documents also say the state medical examiner's officer ruled that the baby died of homicide by asphyxia, which is a lack of oxygen and an excess of carbon dioxide.

A pediatric pathologist found air in the baby's lungs and stomach, which indicated he was alive at some point, King testified.

Police say the father of one of Stotelmyer's other two sons came to the house on Sept. 22 and found her lying in a fetal position, bloody, on a couch. He brought her to Washington County Hospital, where she was examined and had surgery.

King testified that hospital officials alerted police that Stotelmyer had given birth to a premature baby and the baby might still be alive. Police broke into her home, but found that the baby was dead, King testified.

King was on the witness stand Thursday for about 10 minutes, recalling the key points of the investigation in response to questions by Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Arthur Rozes.

Stotelmyer wore a khaki jail jumpsuit and sat next to her attorney, public defender Carl Creeden. She stared down and straight at the defense table through most of the proceedings.

After Spence ruled there was probable cause for the case to go to Circuit Court, Stotelmyer stood, glanced at family members in the front row and sobbed as she was led away.

Stotelmyer is being held in the Washington County Detention Center on $400,000 bond.

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