A Samoan woman studying to become a nun pleaded guilty Friday to killing her newborn son at a convent in Washington.

Sosefina Amoa, 26, took a plea deal and pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter Friday in a Washington courtroom. The charge is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, but the prosecutor handling the case said she would ask for at least four but no more than 10 years.

Amoa wiped away tears during parts of Friday's hearing, taking tissues from her lawyer. Her lawyer, Judith Pipe, said Amoa "never intended to harm her baby." She said that after Amoa delivered the child in her room at the Little Sisters of the Poor convent in October, she was in a state of panic and shock. She was also in pain and had lost blood after a "very difficult delivery," her lawyer said.

It was in that state of mind, her lawyer said, that Amoa put her hand over the child's mouth to "quiet the baby so she could figure out what she was going to do." Amoa acknowledged putting a wool garment over the baby's nose and mouth and applying pressure with her hand for two to three minutes, smothering the child.

Amoa listened to Friday's court hearing through a Samoan translator, and her answers were relayed by the translator in English. Asked by the judge how she wished to plead, she answered, "Your honor, guilty."

Prosecutor Cynthia Wright told the judge that Amoa had arrived in the United States from the island nation of Samoa on Oct. 5, 2013, and entered a program to become a member of the Little Sisters of the Poor. She was to live at the group's convent in northwest Washington for five months while she studied. She gave birth to her son in her room on Oct 10.

Wright said Amoa was standing when the child was born and that he fell, striking the floor. After smothering the child, whom she named Joseph and weighed 6 pounds 2 ounces, Amoa cleaned her room to hide the birth. She showed the dead child to a sister at the convent the next day, initially claiming she found the child outside. She later recanted, acknowledging the child was hers. Wright said there was bruising and scratching to the child's nostrils.

Amoa is scheduled to be sentenced May 23.

"The events leading up to today's proceeding are profoundly sorrowful," Little Sisters of the Poor provincial superior Sister Loraine Marie said in a statement following the hearing. "We continue to pray for a just, merciful and final resolution for all concerned."


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