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Woman who abandoned baby asks for reduction in sentence

April 25, 2007|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - A woman sentenced to spend five years in prison after entering an Alford plea to attempted second-degree murder in connection with abandoning her newborn son returned Tuesday to Washington County Circuit Court.

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

During a modification hearing, Kelly Erin Ruck, 27, asked Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III to reduce her sentence. She was sentenced in May 2006 to 20 years in prison, with all but five years suspended.

Boone declined to make a ruling on Ruck's sentence Tuesday. He will issue an order at a later date, he said.

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Ruck was charged with abandoning her baby Sept. 17, 2005, and placing him beneath a trailer parked behind her home at 809 Maryland Ave. 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.

Ruck's child is in the care of his father, Scott Rohrbaugh.

Rohrbaugh testified Tuesday that he takes the child to visit Ruck in prison every Sunday. Ruck and her child are bonding, he said.

Ruck is more talkative and more emotional than she was in September 2005, Rohrbaugh testified.

Kelly Ruck's father, Michael Ruck, also testified Tuesday.

"I see her eyes light up when we go down to visit," he said. "I know she wants to be a good mother."

During Ruck's sentencing hearing May 15, 2006, psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Jurand testified 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.

Ruck is on a prescription drug to treat depression, her attorney, Gordon Lynn, said Tuesday.

Upon her release, Ruck plans to seek mental health treatment, Lynn said.

"My son, he means the world to me, he means everything to me," Kelly Ruck testified Tuesday.

She plans to tell her son about the "big, horrible mistake" she made when he is older, she testified.

Lynn asked Boone to reduce Ruck's sentence on the grounds that she has participated in programs - including anger management - in prison, has a support system in place and seems to be a different person.

Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael argued that if a stranger had snatched the child and left him beneath a trailer, the maximum sentence possible would have been imposed. The state opposed any modification of her sentence, he said. If the sentence is modified, he asked that Ruck conceive no children as a term of her probation, Michael said.

Boone suggested that Ruck write a letter expressing "sincere, heartful, soulful gratitude" to Sollenberger, thanking him for finding her baby.

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