BOWMAN (AP) - A woman in the southwestern North Dakota town of Bowman who is accused of drowning her newborn baby in a toilet has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial beginning Dec. 4.
Authorities allege that Stephanie Lindstrom, 42, gave birth in the bathroom of her home on July 23, and the baby was found drowned in the toilet. The state medical examiner determined the baby had been born alive and died of drowning.
Lindstrom on Thursday pleaded not guilty to Class AA felony murder, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Bowman Police Chief Charles Headley testified during the hearing that the day before police came to the house to help family members persuade an ill Lindstrom to go to the hospital, her boyfriend and mother had looked through the bathroom doorway. They reported seeing blood that appeared to have been wiped up, and Lindstrom on the floor wrapped in a blanket.
Her boyfriend then tried to enter the bathroom to clean up but she ordered him not to come in, Headley said.
Lindstrom and her boyfriend both later told police that they were unaware of her pregnancy.
"The testimony presented here today suggests that Ms. Lindstrom and those around her had no idea she was pregnant. At no point was there testimony where she said she was aware she was pregnant," defense attorney Erica Jaehning said in court Thursday. "As far as the report of death - it does not indicate the manner of death, just the cause of death."
Bowman County State's Attorney Andrew Weiss said prosecutors showed probable cause that Lindstrom killed her baby.
"We've heard sworn testimony from an experienced officer placing the defendant in a bathroom by herself where a live birth occurred and subsequent death by drowning," he said.
Southwest District Judge Zane Anderson said that while the case involves circumstantial evidence and lacks eyewitnesses, there was probable cause for a trial.