COURTS

Woman Gets 13 Years for Leaving Baby to Die in Hyattsville

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By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A District woman, who a year ago left her newborn daughter to die in a garbage bag she left in a field in Hyattsville, was sentenced Tuesday to 13 years in prison.

Wendy J. Villatoro's sentence is near the low end of Maryland's sentencing guidelines. Circuit Court Judge Cathy H. Serrette said she balanced the need to punish Villatoro's "intolerable" conduct with the difficult circumstances of her life.

"Leaving the baby to die certainly merits punishment," Serrette said. Speaking to Villatoro, she added, "At the same time, the evidence indicates you've pretty much been punished your whole life."

During the two-day sentencing hearing, Assistant Public Defender Michael D. Beach presented evidence that Villatoro, 26, was sexually abused while growing up and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression on the night she left the infant in the field.

Beach said Villatoro became pregnant after she was raped in Honduras, shortly before she came to the Washington area. Villatoro did not tell him or male police investigators about the rape, he said.

It was only when Carole Giunta, a clinical psychologist, interviewed Villatoro for about nine hours over two days that Villatoro revealed the rape, Beach said. Beach said Villatoro told Giunta that she thought someone would find the child.

Beach asked Serrette to sentence his client to 12 years.

Assistant State's Attorney Renee Battle-Brooks, who asked for the maximum 30 years, argued that whether Villatoro was impregnated because she was raped was irrelevant.

"That doesn't make [the baby's] life any less valuable," Battle-Brooks said. "That baby struggled for breath in that plastic bag. She was alone, she was cold and she was hungry."

Battle-Brooks said Villatoro got rid of the baby because she was afraid the man she was living with would break up with her for having another man's child.

According to a statement of facts agreed to by both sides, about midnight Oct. 12, 2008, Villatoro walked to the field from her nearby home in the District, where she was living with a man she considered her husband. She carried a pink towel, a plastic garbage bag and scissors.

Villatoro gave birth, used the scissors to cut the umbilical cord, wrapped the girl in the towel, placed her in the garbage bag and walked home, prosecutors said. The baby was found hours later by workers helping clear the field of brush. The girl was taken to Children's National Medical Center in the District, where she was pronounced dead.

Through a translator, Villatoro said during the hearing that she came to the United States to try to work to better provide for her two young sons in Honduras. "I just want to ask you to forgive me for the offense I committed against you and the country," Villatoro said. "I know what I did was wrong."

A spokesman for State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said he did not know Villatoro's immigration status.


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