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A Lexington woman charged with giving birth and throwing her baby in a Shelbyville dumpster pleaded guilty Tuesday to manslaughter.
Tonya Nicole Brown, 27, who was originally charged with murder, accepted a plea agreement from Shelby County Commonwealth Attorney Laura Donnell to the lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter and tampering with physical evidence for concealing the birth.
Court records say that Brown gave birth to the infant, a full-term, living baby girl, in April 2008.
Afterwards, she confessed to police that she had disposed of the child, and led officers to the dumpster, located behind a gas station at Fairway Crossing.
The child had been placed in a white trash bag that also contained “pieces of blood-stained trash.” She weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces, had an abundance of brown hair, and she was dead.
Court records from Donnell’s office said an autopsy revealed the girl died of asphyxiation.
Brown displayed no emotion and gave no statement at her plea hearing.
She only nodded when Judge Steven Mershon asked her if she was aware that by accepting the plea agreement she understood that she was acknowledging that she had acted wantonly, causing the death of her newborn infant, and then taken steps to conceal the birth.
The penalty for second-degree manslaughter is 5 to 10 years in prison, and tampering with physical evidence carries a penalty of 1 to 5 years.
Donnell recommended the maximum sentence of 10 years for manslaughter and 5 years for tampering with physical evidence, to be served back to back, for a total of 15 years. She also recommended that Brown not be granted parole.
Brown will return to court at 1 p.m. July 7 for sentencing.
Kentucky State Police Detective Luke VanHoose, who headed up the murder investigation, said after the hearing that the tragedy was totally unnecessary.
“There is a ‘Safe Haven’ statute that grants complete anonymity to a parent who doesn’t want the baby,” he said. “The thing that I want to come out of this is that new mothers should know this law is in place.
“They can take the baby to a safe place; they can just hand it over, and there will be no questions asked. I just don’t want this to ever happen again.”
The statute, KRS 405.075, enacted in 2002, guarantees the anonymity of a parent who takes their newborn to a police station, fire department or hospital.
The child must be taken to such a place within 72 hours of the birth for the anonymity to apply.
“In this case, she was within 172 yards from a fire station,” VanHoose said.