Washington County plans to retry Nicole Beecroft in baby death

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 24, 2012 - 10:33 PM

Because the Supreme Court did not challenge rulings from the first trial of Nicole Beecroft, the murder case remains strong, prosecutor said.

Nicole Marie Beecroft
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Nicole Marie Beecroft

Nicole Marie Beecroft, whose conviction in the death of her newborn baby was overturned Wednesday in a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, will be coming back to Washington County within a month.

The county will petition to move the former Oakdale resident to the county jail before a round of court appearances in preparation for a new trial, said Fred Fink, who leads the criminal division in the county attorney's office.

Beecroft, who was a 17-year-old senior at Tartan High School when the crime occurred in 2007, is being held at an undisclosed prison outside Minnesota.

Because the Supreme Court took no issue with rulings in Beecroft's original trial, and didn't dispute statements she made to police that she killed her baby, prosecutors will enter a new trial with a strong case, Fink said Thursday.

"We're probably looking at a trial some months down the line," he said.

The murder indictment will stand in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, freeing Washington County prosecutors to begin work on the trial without having to reconvene a grand jury, Fink said.

A hearing will be scheduled once Washington County receives Beecroft's file from the Supreme Court, which will take about 30 days, he said.

County Attorney Pete Orput -- elected to office two years after Beecroft went to prison in 2008 -- said he has appointed two prosecutors to handle the case. One of the previous prosecutors retired and the other took a job elsewhere, he said.

Orput said he might seek bail of $500,000 to ensure that Beecroft remains in custody once she's transferred to the county jail.

Two public defenders who represented Beecroft in her first trial, Christine Funk and Luke Stellphlug, will do so in the second trial, said Virginia Murphrey, chief public defender in the 10th Judicial District.

The Supreme Court's majority opinion, written by Justice Paul H. Anderson, ordered a new trial for Beecroft because of "significant interference" from two state officials when she was tried and convicted in 2008.

Beecroft was sentenced to life without parole for stabbing her newborn daughter 135 times and throwing the infant into a trash can outside her house. She had hidden her pregnancy, according to court documents.

Because of "improper conduct of certain state officials, a reversal is warranted in the interests of justice," Anderson wrote. He named Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom and Dr. Thomas Uncini, chief medical examiner in St. Louis County, as having discouraged testimony from two other medical examiners that might have helped Beecroft's contention that her baby was dead before the stabbing.

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles

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Nicole Marie Beecroft