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NEW CASTLE Couple seeking change in bond



Published: Wed, June 27, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The defense lawyers told the judge their clients won't leave the area if the bonds are reduced.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- The shackles around her arms and legs didn't match the nervous smile Kathleen Winterbottom gave each time she answered a question.

And the nervous smile didn't match the sad story she told prosecutors about dropping out of high school to care for her three younger siblings and her family's attempts to get help for her eating disorder.

But defense attorneys said those things have little to do with Winterbottom's stay in the Lawrence County Jail and their request that she and boyfriend, Jason Wilds, be set free pending the outcome of charges filed by police.

"She is not a good candidate for fleeing. There is no reason to flee. Her roots are in Ellwood City. And, as for the eating disorder, how is that relevant to the court? Maybe anorexic people are more likely to flee than obese people," said Annette Hutchison, Winterbottom's lawyer.

Judge J. Craig Cox of Lawrence County Common Pleas Court is planning to issue a written decision on the couple's request to be released from jail without bond.

Bond was set at $100,000 each after their June 18 arrests.

What's behind charges: Police placed Winterbottom, 19, and Wilds, 23, both of Portersville Road, Ellport, in custody after the body of a newborn infant boy was found in a patch of woods behind the home where Winterbottom's mother lived on Argonne Boulevard.

Police said Winterbottom told them she gave birth to a stillborn baby June 10 in her apartment, and she and Wilds later wrapped the body in a plastic bag and dropped it off in the woods.

An anonymous tip led police to the body about a week later.

A forensic pathologist could not determine if the baby was stillborn, as the mother asserts, or alive and later died. Winterbottom and Wilds face charges of concealing the death of a child, abuse of a corpse and conspiracy.

Defense attorneys say the $100,000 bond is excessive for the four misdemeanor charges that would each bring a maximum sentence of one month in jail on conviction.

"My client has probably spent more time in jail already than he will be sentenced," said Wild's attorney, Stephen Delpero.

Argument: Delpero and Hutchison argued that the couple wouldn't leave the area because they face so little time if convicted.

The couple testified that they have about $200 in savings accounts and no close family members outside Lawrence and Beaver counties.

Prosecutors questioned Winterbottom about family members' suggestions that she seek psychological help before her arrest.

"They think I need it," Winterbottom said. "I can't talk to people."

Police said Winterbottom would not acknowledge her pregnancy to family or friends.

Thomas Minett, assistant district attorney, also questioned her about eating disorders and she admitted that she saw her family physician, who put her on a special diet, two years ago. Since then, she hasn't sought any medical attention, she said.

Their backgrounds: Winterbottom said her job in advertising layout at the Ellwood City Ledger is still there if she is released from jail and she would live with her mother, Darlene, and her mother's boyfriend, Mike Viccari.

She told prosecutors she didn't graduate from high school because she had to stay at home and care for her three younger siblings because her mother was in legal trouble. She did later get a general educational development degree.

Wilds told the judge he would go back to his job as a salesman at an Ellwood City used-car lot if released and likely live in the apartment he and Winterbottom shared before their arrest.

He said he graduated from Riverside High School and got an associate degree in liberal arts from the Community College of Beaver County.

Judge Cox did not indicate when he would decide on the request for bail reduction.

Winterbottom will head to trial on the charges after waiving her right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday afternoon before District Justice Samuel Battaglia in Ellwood City. Wilds was expected in Battaglia's court this morning for a preliminary hearing on the charges.




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