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SALT LAKE CITY – A woman accused of leaving her newborn baby to die in a trash can near Salt Lake City is not mentally competent to stand trial, a Utah judge ruled Monday.
Court-ordered evaluations found that Alicia Englert, 23, is mentally disabled and has an IQ too low for her to legally stand trial on a felony attempted murder charge, lawyer Josie Brumfield said. Utah law says a defendant must have an IQ of 70 to face trial.
Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills said Englert will enter treatment. The judge set a new hearing date for June 8 to re-assess whether she's become competent for trial.
Englert had a difficult childhood, Brumfield said. Her mother went to prison when she was about 18 months old, and though she was able to finish high school, a single in-depth conversation shows she didn't function at typical adult level.
"She kind of got lost in the cracks, really didn't get any help or treatment," Brumfield said.
An attorney for Englert's parents called for the charge to be dismissed. "She doesn't understand the gravity of what took place, and the finding of incompetency confirms that," Jessica Peterson said.
Alicia Englert has not entered a plea. She appeared in court with her parents wearing a black jacket and green blouse, and did not take questions from reporters. She remained free on bail after Monday's hearing, and state authorities will evaluate Englert to decide what form her treatment will take, Brumfield said.
Prosecutors will take another look at the case to decide what happens next, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said. In some cases, defendants are able to face charges after treatment, but sometimes the setback for prosecutors is permanent, he said.
Court documents say Englert gave birth in a bathroom at her home in the Salt Lake City suburb of Kearns and left the baby girl without food or medical care for a day before wrapping her in a towel and abandoning her in the trash on Aug. 26.
Prosecutors say the infant would have died if she had not been found by a neighbor who thought she heard a cat purring in the garbage. She was suffering from hypothermia, respiratory distress and a blood-borne infection when she was found.
Father Robert Englert said at the time that his daughter had a learning disability and didn't understand the pregnancy or the implications of abandoning the baby.
The girl was flown to a hospital and placed on a ventilator, but she recovered and is being adopted.
Hruby-Mills granted a supervised 90-minute goodbye visit for Englert and her family in December, a fairly common allowance for parents whose rights are terminated after their children are taken into state custody.