Ore. woman accused of killing baby says she lied

February 1, 2012 - 4:55 PM
Baby Killed Trial

Angelica Swartout, left, shows the jury her stomach during testimony in her own defense by her attorney Gordon Mallon, right, Tuesday morning Jan. 31, 2012 in Eugene, Ore. The 24-year-old Springfield, Ore. hotel clerk is accused of giving birth to and smothering a baby boy on Oct. 18, 2010, then putting his body in a hotel trash bin. (AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Chris Pietsch, Pool)

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — A Springfield woman accused of killing her newborn son has taken the stand to testify that her pregnancy was a charade and she confessed to the crime to avoid exposing the lie.

Angelica Swartout testified Tuesday that she wore baggy fleece all summer long in 2010. She demonstrated from the witness stand how she pushed out her belly to fake a pregnancy that was bringing her attention from her family.

The 24-year-old hotel clerk is accused of smothering the child in an employee bathroom and putting the remains in a garbage can. No body has been found.

Swartout testified that she went along with police during questioning in which she tearfully confessed to delivering and smothering the baby, the Eugene Register-Guard (http://bit.ly/xh9HIO) reported. Otherwise, she said, she'd have to tell her family she had lied about the pregnancy.

Swartout said she initially told family members, truthfully, she'd had a positive home pregnancy test while living out of state in early 2010.

Feeling "scared and unsure," she said, she accepted an invitation from a sister to come home to Springfield.

"For the first time in my life since I was a kid, I felt a sense of belonging," she told the jury. "I mattered to my family all the sudden. ... They thought I was going to have a baby. Babies are big in our family."

Then, she said, she had vaginal bleeding followed by a negative pregnancy test at a local clinic, but she pretended to be pregnant to stay in her family's favor, including regular phone calls from her mother.

She said she falsely told friends and family that she delivered a stillborn son at a hospital on Oct. 18, 2010, "because I was supposed to be having a kid."

Five weeks later, two of her sisters called police after trying to retrieve a body from the hospital for a funeral and finding there was no record of a birth.

Both defense and prosecution lawyers have called doctors who did pelvic examinations of Swartout, and they gave conflicting opinions on the likelihood that she had given birth.

Swartout said she expected police would turn up evidence that she never had a child, but "reality kicked in" when she learned in a court hearing she faced a possible death sentence. Prosecutors later decided not to seek the death penalty.

"This is the only chance I have to tell the truth," she told jurors Tuesday. "I'm scared that if I'm not believed, I'll spend the rest of my life in prison."

If convicted, Swartout could be sentenced to life in prison, wither with a minimum sentence of 30 years or with no possibility of parole.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com