EASTON, Pa. – A woman accused of giving birth in a bathroom at an eastern Pennsylvania sports bar, wrapping the newborn in a plastic bag and hiding him in a toilet tank pleaded guilty Friday to a general murder charge.
Amanda Hein, 27, of Allentown, entered the plea during a pretrial hearing in Northampton County Court. A jury must still decide in a trial scheduled for next month whether she should be convicted of first-degree murder, which would carry a life prison term, or third-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years.
Hein spoke Friday only to acknowledge the facts of the case as outlined by the prosecutor and to answer questions from him and the judge. She acknowledged that she is taking medication for severe depression but said she understood what she was doing.
A cleaning crew found the baby's body in the toilet in August at Starters Pub in Bethlehem. A coroner concluded the boy was born alive.
Defense attorney Michael Corriere said he had planned on arguing at trial that the baby was suffering from an illness that led his client to believe the infant had died. He said Hein never formed the specific intent to kill that is required for a first-degree murder conviction.
"We are going to argue on your behalf that you acted in extreme recklessness of life," Corriere told Hein during the hearing, The (Easton) Express-Times reported.
Prosecutors originally said they planned to seek the death penalty, but they agreed not to in exchange for her plea. District Attorney John Morganelli said after the hearing that the plea provided a guaranteed conviction without a lengthy appeal process.
Morganelli also said Hein's mental health issues would have made it difficult for her to be sentenced to death, and noted that no Pennsylvania death row inmate has been executed in 15 years.
"Realistically, death penalties are not conferred in Pennsylvania," he said.
Information from: The (Easton, Pa.) Express-Times, http://www.lehighvalleylive.com