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Preliminary hearing is held in death of newborn

January 29, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Lawyers for a woman charged in the death of her newborn son last September told a Washington County Circuit judge Tuesday their client will be examined by a psychiatrist.

But Washington County public defenders Carl Creeden and John Chillas told Judge W. Kennedy Boone they did not plan to file a plea of not criminally responsible - Maryland's version of an insanity plea.

Patricia Ann Stotelmyer, 26, of 28 Wakefield Road in Hagerstown, was charged Sept. 27, 2002, with second-degree murder, manslaughter, reckless endangerment, child abuse by a parent resulting in death and child abuse in the death of her premature baby on Sept. 21, 2002.

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She was being held at the Washington County Detention Center.

Stotelmyer told police she gave birth while taking a bath and thought the baby, which came two months early, was already dead when she wrapped him in a towel, put him in a plastic bag and then placed the bag in the trash, according to charging documents.

A boyfriend who went to Stotelmyer's house found her lying on a couch bleeding, the documents said.

Doctors at Washington County Hospital told police she first denied being pregnant, but an examination determined she had given birth to a baby in its seventh month of development, the documents said. Doctors performed surgery because of extensive injuries she suffered giving birth.

An autopsy performed Sept. 23 at the state Medical Examiner's Office determined that the baby died of asphyxia, the documents said. Asphyxia is a lack of oxygen and an excess of carbon dioxide.

After the hearing Tuesday, Creeden said he was unsure whether the case would go to trial or end with a plea.

"It's too early to say ... but it's serious, and we have to try to do everything we can to protect our client," he said.

Stotelmyer, who was present for the brief morning hearing, answered only two questions.

Boone asked Stotelmyer if she understood what her lawyers were saying.

"Yeah," she said quietly.

How far did she make it in school? Boone asked.

"Tenth grade," Stotelmyer replied.

A trial date has been set for Feb. 26, but it is unlikely lawyers will be ready to present the case then because of the complex medical testimony, Creeden and Chillas told Boone.

The trial likely will be delayed until spring, Creeden said.

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