Abandoned baby case is forwarded

October 26, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD


Kelly Erin Ruck told police she "panicked" when she gave birth and then abandoned her baby under a woodpile in September, but she never gave police a clear explanation for her actions, according to testimony Tuesday during her preliminary hearing.

Washington County District Judge Ralph H. France II found probable cause to forward to Circuit Court charges of attempted first-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder against Ruck, 25, in the Sept. 17 incident.

France ordered that she remain at the Washington County Detention Center on a $500,000 bond.

Ruck's attorney, Gordon Lynn, argued that she did not intend to kill her baby, making a charge of attempted first-degree murder inappropriate.


"What we have here is a reckless endangerment case. If she panicked ... There was no deliberate act to kill this baby," he said.

State's Attorney Charles Strong disagreed, saying, "This was the intent to hide this child so it would die."

Strong said if it had not been for the intervention - "perhaps divine" - of neighbor James Sollenberger, who found the baby boy, the newborn might not have survived.

As Hagerstown Police Department Detective Shane Blankenship explained how police connected the abandoned baby to his mother, Ruck, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, rarely changed her blank expression. She sometimes clenched her lips. At times, her eyes appeared to well with tears.

Blankenship testified that Sollenberger found the baby at about 9:30 a.m. after looking closer at "two bloody rags or paper towels" lying near a trailer behind his home in the 800 block of Chestnut Street. Sollenberger looked underneath the front part of the trailer, which was lifted "about eight inches off the ground," and saw a pile of wood with a baby's hand sticking out of it, Blankenship testified. The baby was taken to Washington County Hospital and named Baby John Doe.

Blankenship testified that "grass had not been mowed for some time" around the trailer, making it hard to see the spot where the woodpile had been. He said detectives found the "remains of an umbilical cord" near the trailer.

Police learned from Ruck a couple of days later that she gave birth to the boy at her 809 Maryland Ave. house that morning, "carried the child outside the home and placed it under a trailer," which was parked directly behind her house, Blankenship testified. Her live-in boyfriend, Scott Rohrbaugh, had asked about the blood "he found all over the house" that morning, but she told him two different stories: At first she said she had a "nose bleed," and later she said "she got sick and threw up while sitting on the couch," he testified.

She told police that she panicked, Blankenship said.

"The explanations she gave were - what I felt - vague and pretty unclear," he testified.

On cross-examination, Lynn asked him to elaborate.

"Her affect was very flat. There was not a lot of emotion coming from her," Blankenship told Lynn. "Getting information from her was like pulling teeth."

He said she mentioned that she was worried about "bills and what her family would think, friends, that was about it."

Blankenship testified on cross-examination that no bruises were found on the baby's body.

He testified under direct examination that when the baby was evaluated at the hospital, he was "hypothermic," with an 88-degree body temperature. Doctors told police that if the baby had not been found and if the temperature that morning remained the same, the baby might have stayed alive for about three more hours, Blankenship said. If the baby had not been found and the temperature had risen, the baby might have died after about seven hours, he said.

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