Washington County prosecutors will seek a stiffer prison sentence for Nicole Beecroft, the Oakdale woman convicted twice of stabbing her newborn baby daughter to death.
In a court hearing Friday in Stillwater, Beecroft waived her right to a jury review of “aggravating factors,” meaning the arguments prosecutors will present to show that Beecroft showed unusual cruelty in slaying a vulnerable child.
District Judge John Hoffman set sentencing for May 5.
The saga of Beecroft, a teenage mom who stabbed the girl 135 times after birth, took a new turn last year when she was convicted a second time — but on a reduced charge.
Hoffman’s finding of second-degree intentional murder in September meant that Beecroft, now 24, no longer will serve a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. The Minnesota Supreme Court granted her a new trial because of allegations of witness tampering in the first trial.
On Friday, however, Karin McCarthy and Siv Yurichuk of the Washington County attorney’s office, told Hoffman they would ask for an “upward departure” from state sentencing guidelines. They will ask for the maximum sentence, which is 40 years, compared with the midrange “presumptive” sentence of about 25 years under the guidelines.
Beecroft has spent the past two years in the Washington County jail as her case works its way through the courts. She was 17 years old and a senior at Tartan High School in Oakdale when she gave birth in the basement of the house she shared with her mother. She had disguised her pregnancy and was alone when the baby was born.
Hoffman heard the case by himself and decided the verdict because Beecroft and her attorneys, Luke Stellpflug and Christine Funk, wanted a bench trial rather than have it heard before a jury. Another Washington County judge, Mary Hannon, presided over the first trial.
In July, Beecroft rejected a plea offer from County Attorney Pete Orput’s office that left prosecutors shaking their heads, but Stellpflug said then that additional expert witnesses who hadn’t testified in the first trial would prove that the baby was born dead and Beecroft would be acquitted.
The plea offer could have freed her within seven years.