How could a woman throw her own baby out with the rubbish?

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On the evening of 22 April 2015, two uni students made a horrifying discovery outside their campus home. The body of a baby girl, wrapped in a plastic bag and dumped with the rubbish. And one of the bathrooms in their student house was covered in blood. The girls had long suspected one of their housemates was concealing a pregnancy. But could she have murdered her newborn, then callously thrown her out like rubbish?

In autumn 2014, rumours began swirling around Muskingum University campus in Zanesville, Ohio. It was whispered that student Emile Weaver, 20, had a secret – she was pregnant. Emile shot down the rumours.

Plus, she didn’t behave as if she was expecting a baby. She was seen drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and participated in a dodgeball tournament. But students, especially the girls in Emile’s sorority Delta Gamma Theta – a university social organisation, noticed she’d gained weight and had started wearing baggy clothes. And, oddly, she always seemed to be carrying a pillow or stuffed toy in front of her belly.

Then, on 22 April, the girls from Delta Gamma Theta all got a text from the house manager, asking whoever was responsible for the mess in the first floor bathroom to clean it up. It looks like a murder scene, the text read. After discussing their suspicions about Emile, the sorority sisters began to worry.

What if she’d had the baby and something had happened to it? At around 9pm, two of the students went outside to sort out the rubbish bins…

There was a plastic bin bag next to the bin – tightly sealed.

‘Something wasn’t right,’ one girl recalled. ‘It was heavy.’

Tearing a hole in the bag, the girls saw a baby’s foot. And when one of them opened the bag further, she collapsed, crying. Inside were a baby’s remains. The police were called, and an investigation was launched.

Days later, Emile told her mum and her roommate that she’d had a miscarriage. But at a hospital in West Virginia, tests showed she’d carried the baby to full term. Emile was arrested. She admitted to detectives that she’d given birth on the toilet, pulled out the placenta and then left the bathroom to get a knife to cut the umbilical cord. She said she’d named the baby girl Addison Grace.

But she said that, when she returned, she thought the baby had died, as she wasn’t moving or breathing. Emile claimed she hadn’t tried to resuscitate the baby because she didn’t know how, and hadn’t called an ambulance because she didn’t like doctors. However, coroners ruled the baby was alive when Emile put her in the plastic bag – tests showed that she’d died from asphyxiation.

Emile Weaver was charged with aggravated murder, abuse of a corpse and two counts of tampering with evidence. At an early hearing, Emile pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but the judge ruled she was mentally competent.

Crime

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This May, Emile Weaver, 21, went on trial at Muskingum County Common Pleas court. She pleaded not guilty. She claimed that she’d been in denial, that she’d not known she was pregnant because she’d not had any symptoms. No cravings, sickness, or much weight gain. And, while she admitted the baby was born alive, Emile claimed she’d died soon after the birth.

Her lawyer said to the jury, ‘Did she do the right thing by placing her dead baby in a garbage can? Absolutely not. Did she kill her baby? When you hear the evidence, you will have reasonable doubt.’

He went on, ‘Emile was 20 years old, a college student. She couldn’t go to her mum, she couldn’t go to the boy she thought was the father. She was alone.’

But prosecutors argued that Emile knew full well she was pregnant. The court heard how, in September 2014, Emile had gone to the university Wellness Center for birth control. Following its usual procedure she was given a pregnancy test – which came back positive.

Giving evidence, the nurse at the centre said she’d left voicemails, sent texts and messages to Emile to come in and discuss the results – but these were all ignored.

After hearing evidence from one of the students who found the baby’s body, another of Emile’s sorority sisters took the stand. The girl said she’d woken early and heard a baby crying. But, at the time, she hadn’t know what the sound was. When she went to investigate, she said that she’d seen a light coming from under the bathroom door, but thought it was someone playing a game on their mobile phone.

Evidence was produced that, hours after giving birth, Emile had texted the man she believed was the father of her child and told him that there was no more baby, and that it’d been taken care of.

Crime

The forensic pathologist testified the baby was born alive, as the air present in her lungs proved she’d been breathing.

Prosecutors argued that Emile had never wanted to have the child, and had tried to kill the baby by smoking marijuana, drinking, and had even taken 80 black cohosh pills – a supplement that comes in a bottle bearing the warning, Do not take if pregnant.

The Assistant Prosecutor told the court that Emile ‘wanted Addison dead. Whether it was during her pregnancy or after birth, it didn’t matter. She didn’t want the baby’.

So had Emile merely panicked, believing her baby had died – or had she murdered her own newborn daughter?

The verdict

It took jurors little more than an hour to find Emile Weaver guilty on all counts, including aggravated murder. Jailing her for life without parole, Judge Mark Fleegle said, ‘You tried over and over to take that baby’s life.’

After the sentencing, Prosecutor Michael Haddox said he hoped the case highlighted Ohio’s Safe Havens law, which allows mothers to anonymously give up unwanted newborns at a hospital, fire station or law enforcement agency with no questions asked.

Emile Weaver plans to appeal her sentence.