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LAWRENCE COUNTY Probe continues into baby's death



Published: Wed, June 20, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Investigators say the apartment where Cathleen Winterbottom and Jason Wilds lived had few signs that a baby was on the way.

"It doesn't appear that they made any preparations for a full-term child. There was nothing in their apartment in terms of a crib or infant clothing," said Matthew Mangino, Lawrence County district attorney.

However, investigators say Winterbottom gave birth to a full-term baby boy, weighing 61/2 pounds and measuring 21 inches long, on June 10 before she and Wilds put the child in a plastic bag and left him in a wooded area behind her mother's home on Argonne Boulevard in Ellwood City.

Whether that baby was stillborn, as his mother claims, or born alive and later died is still a mystery.

Mangino said Tuesday that an autopsy conducted Monday was inconclusive because of decomposition that set in before police discovered the body Sunday. Tests on tissues taken from the newborn to determine how and when he died could take several weeks, Mangino said.

Charges: Winterbottom, 19, and Wilds, 23, both of 215 Portersville Road, Ellport, are in Lawrence County Jail on $100,000 bond pending a preliminary hearing June 27. Both face charges of concealing the whereabouts of a child, conspiracy to conceal the whereabouts of a child, abuse of a corpse and conspiracy to abuse a corpse.

Mangino said investigators are still interviewing the couple's neighbors, friends and co-workers before deciding if more charges will be filed.

Monday's autopsy revealed a full-term baby with a fully developed heart and lungs, he said. There were no visible bruises or marks on the body, according to the district attorney.

Winterbottom told police she gave birth to a stillborn baby June 10 in her apartment and wrapped him in a towel and later a plastic garbage bag before she and Wilds put the newborn in the woods. It's not clear if Wilds is the baby's father.

Winterbottom apparently sought no medical attention before or after the birth, according to Mangino.

Suspected pregnancy: Relatives and neighbors told police that they suspected Winterbottom was pregnant but that she refused to admit it.

Mangino said it is unclear whether Winterbottom was unaware of her pregnancy or just concealing it from others.

The district attorney said he is talking to other prosecutors in Pennsylvania who have dealt with similar cases for advice on how to proceed.

Winterbottom and Wilds each face a maximum seven years in prison if convicted of all four charges.




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