Centralia Mother Charged With Murdering Baby:
A 25-year-old Centralia mother was arrested and booked with first-degree murder today in the March 2 death of her premature infant.
Laura L. Hickey allegedly cut off her 21-week-old baby’s head with a knife after he was born naturally in her residence before 1 a.m. at the Peppertree West Motor Inn.
A forensic pathologist indicated in a preliminary finding of a post-mortem examination that the baby was alive at birth, and that fatal injuries — decapitation — were inflicted intentionally.
Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said the baby’s early stage of development — allegedly 21 weeks — will not matter in the case.
First, let's get one thing out of the way -- That woman is clearly nuts. This story gives a clue to what might have been going on: Hickey was also charged with possession of methamphetamine, and told the cops she'd used meth on February 28 and hadn't slept for two days. So this bizarre murder may have been committed in a drug-induced frenzy. An additional bizarre aspect: The woman named her baby before she beheaded him. So she's being prosecuted, not for the murder of Baby Boy Hickey, but of Caleb Jacob Hickey. Her other children had been taken from her custody about a year ago. The baby's father has been identified but evidently was not involved.
Research I've done previously found that a 22-week baby has a less than 10% chance of survival. Boys are less likely to survive than girls. The youngest surviving preemie on record, James Gill of Canada, was born at 21 weeks. So, frankly, Caleb's chances of survival were as close to zero as they could have been without actually being zero. Which means that had his mother not decapitated him, he would have died of extreme prematurity. At that age, no attempt would have been made to resuscitate him; he'd have just been offered comfort care. She'd have gotten the dead baby she wanted, without the murder charge and the ghoulish notoriety. So, again, clearly, this woman was off the rails.
She's being held on $1 million bail. Police say she told them that she didn't want anybody -- especially her mother -- to know about the baby, and that she'd known he was going to die and didn't want him to suffer. Neither of these factors could explain whey she'd saw off the child's head with a serrated kitchen knife after giving birth in the toilet.
To add to the creepiness, she then cleaned up the knife, put it away, cleaned up her house, stuffed the baby's body and head into a plastic kitchen container and put it under the sink, then screamed for help, prompting neighbors to call 911.
The case raises interesting issues:
1. Killing a person who is likely to die soon is still murder.
2. This baby was legally abortable in any state in the US. So legally this woman had every right to decide she preferred a dead baby, and to pay somebody to decapitate him in-utero. (There are special scissors for just such a purpose, though they were originally developed to cut up babies that had died in-utero.) Cedar River Clinics would have snuffed the baby as late as 26 weeks.
3. Is it time to open the horrible Pandor's box of forced birth control? This is a risky area, since allowing other people to decide who's fit to reproduce raises the possibility of those in power simply denying reproduction to people they don't like. People who embrace controversial or unusual lifestyles -- cultural or religious minorities or just flakey people -- would be at very high risk. We've seen here in the US exactly how wrong this sort of plan can go. And even the idea that you could protect against abuse by making the decisions very public -- perhaps even requiring a jury to concur -- still leaves unpopular minorities at risk.