NEW CASTLE Woman sentenced for putting baby in bag and dumping body
The judge approved her application for work release.
BY MARY GRZEBIENIAK
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- A woman who said she put her stillborn baby in a bag and dumped the body in the woods will serve five to 24 months in the Lawrence County Jail.
Cathleen Winterbottom, 20, was sentenced Friday by Judge Dominick Motto of Lawrence County Common Pleas Court. The jail term will be followed by 24 months supervised probation, which will include a provision that she undergo a mental health assessment and comply with any treatment or counseling. She was given credit for 12 days already served.
Winterbottom, of Portersville Road, Ellwood City, pleaded guilty to concealing the death of a child and abuse of a corpse and no contest to criminal conspiracy to abuse a corpse, all misdemeanors, for leaving her newborn son's body in a bag in a wooded area in June 2001.
Longer sentence sought
Assistant District Attorney Diane Demeter had asked that Winterbottom be sentenced to 41/2 to nine years in prison. Winterbottom's attorney, Annette Hutchison, asked that jail time be limited to the 12 days already served and that her client be placed on probation.
Motto said he imposed jail time because of the way the baby's body was treated. He approved Winterbottom's application for work release but said he will determine how many hours she can work.
Because of the decomposition of the baby's body, pathologists were unable to determine if it had been born alive or stillborn, as Winterbottom claimed. Demeter said that while there is no proof the baby was born alive, Winterbottom's behavior, her denial of the pregnancy and failure to seek any medical help showed "she never intended for this child to be alive."
The body was put in a plastic bag and left in a closet. It was then placed in the back of a car for three days before being left behind an Ellwood City house where Winterbottom grew up, Demeter said.
Hutchison countered that abortion is easily available, and it would make no sense for Winterbottom to carry the baby to full term, all the while intending to get rid of it. She stated that Winterbottom, who was 18 at the time, was suffering from anorexia andthat an anorexic would refuse to acknowledge the body changes of pregnancy.
"If Katie was able to admit to herself that she was pregnant, there might have been an abortion," she said.
She added Winterbottom had a difficult life. A varsity athlete enrolled in honors courses, Winterbottom quit high school in the 11th grade to care for three younger brothers when her mother was incarcerated. She said Winterbottom's mother had a history of legal problems resulting from drug dependency and that Winterbottom has not seen her father since she was 6 years old.
Hutchison pointed out that Winterbottom has no prior record, has held a job for two years and that no purpose would be served by incarceration. She said her client is undergoing counseling and trying to get her life straightened out.
Winterbottom's co-defendant, Jason Wilds, 24, who was living with her at the time of the baby's death, has pleaded guilty to identical charges and is awaiting sentencing.
He was not the baby's father.