Nicole Beecroft stabbed her newborn daughter more than 100 times… But was there enough evidence to convict her of murder?
Nicole Beecroft had always been an admirable teenager.
Despite being just 17, she had two jobs, attended high school and had never been in trouble with the law.
But Nicole was carrying a big secret.
She’d fallen pregnant – and she desperately didn’t want her mother, or anyone else, to find out.
Luckily, thanks to already being overweight and with the help of a few baggy jumpers, she was able to conceal the news of her impending arrival.
But, with the baby due any day, she knew she couldn’t keep it a secret forever – or could she?
In the early hours of 9 April 2007, Nicole suddenly went into labour at her family home in Oakdale, Minnesota.
Her mum Kari Beecroft was in the house but Nicole didn’t once call for help.
Instead, she quietly gave birth to a baby girl on the floor of the laundry room.
For most mums, seeing their newborn baby for the first time is a magical moment.
Not for Nicole.
What the new mum did next is beyond comprehension.
Shortly after the birth, she went to the kitchen, grabbed some scissors and a steak knife.
Then, she stabbed her own daughter over and over again.
By the time she’d finished, the helpless baby’s tiny body was riddled with 135 separate stab wounds.
But the horror of Nicole’s actions wasn’t over yet. The teen then wrapped the bloody remains of her newborn daughter in towels and dumped her in the rubbish bin outside.
The whole ordeal almost went completely undetected. But the enormity of what she’d done proved too much for Nicole, and she soon spilled the beans to her best friend.
Horrified, the friend in turn told her family what had happened, and they then informed the local police.
Officers went to the shop where Nicole worked and confronted her.
She initially claimed the baby was stillborn, telling police she ‘went into panic mode’ when the baby was born not breathing. And that she lay with her for a while, waiting for her to cry.
She admitted throwing the remains in the bin, but failed to mention the stabbing.
‘What were you going to do if the baby was breathing?’ she was later asked in her police interview.
‘Bring her to the hospital,’ Nicole replied.
A ‘safe harbour’ law in Minnesota allows women to leave a baby at any hospital within 72 hours of birth, without legal consequences.
But Nicole’s story began to unravel after police acquired a search warrant.
In the family home, they found adult-sized nappies soaked with blood.
Nicole’s mother told the officers her daughter had been suffering with a particularly heavy period.
However, they later searched the bin…where they found the baby’s body, alongside towels and a knife.
When she realised the police had recovered her daughter’s remains, Nicole cracked and confessed to the sickening stabbing.
She told them she freaked out when she saw the baby’s finger move and it propelled her into the frenzied attack.
Nicole was charged with first-degree murder.
Shockingly, an initial autopsy showed the baby was born alive, but died after bleeding to death from stab wounds.
At trial, Nicole Beecroft was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life without parole.
But that’s not where her story ends…
Seven years into Beecroft’s life sentence, Minnesota Supreme Court overturned her conviction, and granted her a second trial.
The court found her first trial wasn’t fair because the prosecution prevented the defence from calling expert medical witnesses who would have cast doubt on the initial autopsy results that the baby was born alive.
In the second hearing, defence attorney Christine Funk went to great effort to stress the crucial issue in deciding Beecroft’s guilt was whether the baby was stillborn.
Funk said, ‘the state wants you to focus on why Nicole would stab the baby if she were already dead.’
‘The issue is whether the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt whether the defendant’s actions caused the death of that infant,’ she stated.
But state prosecutors fought back.
‘She grabbed a steak knife and two scissors. She stabbed that baby 135 times,’ prosecutor Siv Yurichuk argued. ‘Over and over and over, until the baby was so fraught with wounds she bled to death.’
‘Why would somebody stab a baby that’s already dead?’
That crucial question was left to play on the minds of the second jury as they headed into their deliberations.
There was no doubt that Nicole had committed the gruesome act of attacking her own baby.
But with doubt cast on whether she did it while the child was alive or dead, could the jury really convict her of murder?
Nicole Beecroft was found guilty of intentional second-degree murder, a lesser charge than that which she was convicted at her first trial.
Before sentencing, she expressed her remorse, and begged for mercy.
‘All I ask, your honour, is to keep in mind how much I’ve grown and how immature I was when I committed this horrible mistake,’ she said.
‘I take full responsibility for my actions, your honour, and ask for your mercy.’
Nicole received 14 years, and six months. However, she’d already served 2,699 days – more than seven years – which was deducted.
Once she’s released, she’ll serve another seven years on supervised release.
‘The case is a tragedy for all involved,’ District Judge John Hoffman said. ‘[The] defendant has been and will be deterred by a prison sentence that for all intents and purposes will take Ms Beecroft very nearly out of child-bearing range; it is highly unlikely to this court that [the] defendant will ever be in a position to harm a child again.’