Police: Dead baby's Olympia mom denies pregnancy

Staff writerJuly 19, 2011 

— A woman who authorities believe delivered a boy who died at birth at a home on Olympia’s west side has repeatedly denied to friends, family, medical professionals and detectives that she had been pregnant or gave birth, according to Olympia police.

The woman was brought to Providence St. Peter Hospital on Monday morning complaining of abdominal pain. Hospital staffers found evidence that she had given birth and notified police.

Olympia police found the baby in a plastic bag in a closet at the woman’s residence on Bush Avenue on Monday, Olympia Police Detective Jeff Herbig said Tuesday.

After the baby’s autopsy Tuesday, Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock said the immediate cause of death was “placenta insufficiency due to multiple infarcts of the placenta.”

Warnock said the baby might have survived had the mother sought medical attention when giving birth.

“It was during the birth that he died,” he said.

An Olympia police news release indicates that because the baby’s cause of death was “fetal demise” and there is no evidence of foul play, the investigation of his death is closed. However, Herbig suggested that the investigation is not final, pending completion of a toxicology report and the signing of a death certificate by the coroner’s office. Thurston County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Toynbee also said Tuesday that it is his understanding the investigation is not complete.

Herbig said the woman’s friends have told police they suspected she was pregnant, but she told them she was not. Monday’s death is the second time in less a week that a woman in the Olympia area allegedly gave birth without telling anyone.

Jasmine Marie Ritchey, 23, is being held at the Thurston County Jail on suspicion of attempted second-degree murder and abandonment of a dependent person after she allegedly gave birth to a boy in a bathroom at Providence St. Peter Hospital and placed him at the bottom of a trash can. The baby was found blue in the face with its umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, police said. He was taken to Tacoma General Hospital, where he was in stable condition last week.

According to court papers, Ritchey told family members and hospital staffers that she was having abdominal pains due to chemotherapy treatments from ovarian cancer, and that she wasn’t pregnant. Ritchey does not have cancer, court papers state.

Herbig said the two incidents underscore the need to spread the word about Washington’s “safe haven” law. The law gives a newborn’s parents immunity from prosecution if they anonymously leave the baby with a qualified person at a hospital or a fire station.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465

jpawloski@theolympian.com

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