Woman gets five years for abandoning infant child

May 16, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD


A Hagerstown woman who was charged with abandoning her newborn boy beneath a parked trailer in September 2005 was sentenced Monday to serve five years in prison.

Kelly Erin Ruck, 26, was ordered by Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III to serve 20 years in prison, with all but five years suspended. The sentence stems from an attempted second-degree murder charge to which Ruck entered an Alford plea on April 24.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges the prosecution has sufficient evidence to gain a conviction.


Ruck was charged with abandoning her baby Sept. 17, 2005, and placing him beneath a trailer parked behind her 809 Maryland Ave. home. The boy was found about 9:30 a.m. by neighbor James Sollenberger, who told police he was drawn to the trailer by bloody rags near it and found the child beneath a couple of pieces of wood, according to charging documents.

The boy is in foster care in the custody of the Department of Social Services, said Gordon Lynn, Ruck's attorney.

Before pronouncing the sentence, Boone said, "However you slice it, (the child) is the victim." Boone said the boy was his main consideration when determining the sentence.

Ruck declined to comment before she was sentenced.

Maryland sentencing guidelines, which are discretionary for the state's judges, called for a sentence of three to eight years for Ruck, who has no prior criminal record, Washington County State's Attorney Charles Strong said.

The maximum sentence for attempted second-degree murder is 30 years.

Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael told Boone that Ruck "knew all along that she was pregnant," but refused to take a pregnancy test and refused prenatal care. He said coworkers noticed her weight gain and watched her stop drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes on the job.

"Did she realize another life was at risk?" Michael asked. "In the time it took her to put those blocks of wood under the trailer, she could have made a call.

"There would have been no sanction whatsoever if she asked for help."

Michael referred to the Safe Haven program - a statewide initiative that allows a baby to be handed over to a hospital or police with no questions asked. The program applies to children 3 days old or younger who have not been abused.

Shepherdstown, W.Va, psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Jurand testified Monday on behalf of the defense that Ruck suffered from a "dissociative event" and was "quite irrational at the time" that she gave birth in her living room and placed the boy outside.

Michael countered on cross-examination, "Isn't this the same kind of stress every mother goes through?"

Jurand testified that he wasn't sure "how rational I would be" if he gave birth in a living room, without prenatal care and support for nine months before birth.

Jurand testified that Ruck did not understand the criminality of her actions, disagreeing with psychologist Paul McCusker, whose presentence report said she was competent at the time of the crime.

Lynn told Boone that Ruck was under the care of Brook Lane Health Services from 1996 to 1999.

Ruck's mother and father asked for mercy before the sentencing.

Scott Rohrbaugh, Ruck's fiancee and the boy's father, told Boone that he would take responsibility to ensure Ruck gets the mental health treatment she needs.

Rohrbaugh asked that "Kelly be allowed to return home as soon as possible so she can prove she can be a good mother to her son."

Lynn said after the hearing that it is "likely" Rohrbaugh will get custody of the child, but that has not been determined.

Boone gave Ruck credit for the 231 days she served at Washington County Detention Center. He said she would be eligible for early parole since she has no prior record.

Boone ordered that Ruck serve three years of probation - the first 18 months supervised - upon her release. He said he would not grant a request made by Michael to order Ruck to have no more children during her probationary period.

Boone, who is presiding over the Department of Social Services case regarding the child, said Ruck should have no contact with her son unless the court orders differently.

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