Premeditated-murder charge stands in newborn's stabbing

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 29, 2008 - 11:28 PM

A judge denied motions to dismiss the indictment against an Oakdale teen accused of stabbing her baby girl 135 times, then putting her body in the trash in 2007.

Attorneys for an Oakdale teenager charged with stabbing her newborn daughter to death failed Thursday to get a judge to consider dismissing a premeditated-murder indictment against the teen.

Nicole Beecroft, now 18, is accused of stabbing the baby girl 135 times and putting the infant's body and a knife into a trash can outside her home in April 2007. She was 17 at the time.

Public defender Christine Funk argued that a prosecutor presented misleading testimony and ignored evidence that led to an improper first-degree murder indictment. Funk said in court that she wanted to present new evidence on "the nature of the stab wounds," explaining later that she wanted to challenge autopsy findings supporting the premeditated-murder charge.

But Washington County Judge Mary Hannon denied Funk's motion that the judge hear new testimony from a medical expert who disputes that the killing was premeditated. Hannon found that the prosecutor did nothing improper in presenting evidence to the grand jury.

Nonetheless, Funk and her co-counsel, Luke Stellphlug, said they'll press on with that argument when Beecroft's trial commences in November.

"We have evidence to suggest the autopsy was done in a less-than-professional manner," Stellphlug said. "We have a [teenage] girl facing the potential of life in prison. We want to make sure all the I's are dotted and T's crossed."

"The autopsy is the issue," added Funk.

Beecroft, who is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, sat quietly beside her attorneys during the hearing. She wore a dark green jail jumpsuit and her ankles were chained together.

The defense has asked Dr. Susan Roe, an assistant Dakota County coroner, to review the Ramsey County medical examiner's autopsy report. The attorneys say Roe disputes the argument that the slaying was premeditated.

Funk said some neonaticide research on teenage girls who hide their pregnancy and deliver alone, as Beecroft did, indicates that they are not capable of premeditated killing.

However, prosecutor Heather Pipenhagen told Hannon that a New York judge rejected the neonaticide syndrome theory -- that a teenage mother can have a psychotic breakdown at childbirth -- in the only case Pipenhagen could find in which the theory was raised.

The baby's death stunned the Oakdale community. Bee-croft initially told police she gave birth to a stillborn baby on her laundry room floor about 3 a.m. on April 9, 2007.

After police found the baby's bloody body in a trash can, along with a knife, she said she panicked and stabbed the baby girl after seeing her move a finger.

Beecroft's mother told police that she hadn't known her overweight daughter was pregnant.

The Ramsey County medical examiner's office ruled that the baby was born alive and bled to death from the stab wounds.

Jim Adams • 612-673-7658

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