Oakdale mom convicted of killing baby gets 7 years in prison

Beecroft, Nicole (Minnesota Dept. of Corrections)
"I wish I could turn back time," Nicole Beecroft told Washington County Judge John Hoffman, her voice shaking, in her first public statement since her arrest seven years ago, after she murdered her newborn baby.
"Pain and heartbreak is a burden I will have to bear for the rest of my life."
She listed off life events she wouldn't be able to enjoy with the child, whom she referred to as Angel -- seeing the baby crawl, learn her first words, ride a bike -- "The list goes on," she said.
7 more years
Over seven years after her first day in prison, Beecroft may at last have a final word on her fate.
She was sentenced Aug. 29 to serve a total of 174 months in prison, or 14 years, followed by 87 months on supervised release. Beecroft has already served over half of her prison time -- District Judge John Hoffman gave her credit for the 2,699 days she's already spent in prison.
She was convicted of second-degree murder, not premeditated, for stabbing her newborn to death shortly after giving birth, then putting it in garbage bags and placing the body in the trash. 
Whether the baby was alive during the stabbing was a matter of dispute -- witnesses for the prosecution said there was evidence the baby had taken at least one breath prior to being stabbed, while medical examiners for the defense said that all evidence pointed toward a stillbirth. Beecroft had no criminal record at the prior to the incident.
Beecroft, now 25, was 17 at the time of the incident and a senior at Tartan High School and had hid the pregnancy from family and friends. She gave birth to the baby in the laundry room of her family home in Oakdale.
"The case is a tragedy for all involved," Hoffman told the courtroom. "There are not now, nor will there ever be, any winners here."
"Chasm" between defense and prosecution
The prosecuting attorney representing Washington County, Karin McCarthy, had pushed for a much longer sentence, asking the judge to consider two aggravating factors and arrive at a 40-year sentence. McCarthy thoroughly reviewed the facts of the case, emphasizing repeatedly the over 100 stab wounds found on the dead baby.
She at one point alleged that "[Beecroft] read up on neonaticide and that's how she knows what to say" and also noted that in Kentucky, infanticide is a capital offense.
"Show her the same compassion ... she showed her newborn child," McCarthy told the judge.
The defense, on the other hand, asked for Beecroft to be put on supervised release.
The judge determined that one aggravating factor, the vulnerability of the baby, could be considered. However, the second factor alleging the baby was subject to particular cruelty, was ruled by the judge to be nonconclusive.
Hoffman noted a "chasm" between the defense and the prosecution -- "after seven years of uncertainty... the parties continue to be at odds" on details of the case big and small.
The "unsolveable divide" led Hoffman to give a sentence within state sentencing guidelines, splitting the difference between the desires of the defense and the prosecution.
"I think justice was served," said McCarthy after the sentencing.
Depression and denial
Giving a victim statement, Tina Ross, the paternal grandmother of the infant talked of the emotional toll the incident has had on her son, the father, who wasn't present at the sentencing hearing.
She said he experiences depression, denial, cries about it regularly, and has refrained from entering into other romantic relationships.
She complained that Beecroft hadn't shown sufficient remorse for her actions.
Nonetheless, "we don't want her to spend the rest of her life in prison," she said. "We want her to have a chance." 
Ross then added she didn't believe Beecroft had spent enough time behind bars yet.
Time lost
In her statements to the judge, Beecroft described losing her mother to breast cancer as she sat in the state women's prison, unable to help. Beecroft's deceased mother had been suffering from cancer at the time of the incident.
"I'll never forgive myself for the time I lost with my mother and my daughter," Beecroft said.
She said she'd hope to become an advocate for pregnant teens once out of prison, and also hopes to go to college and write a book.
"I'm very grateful that I am still young," she said.
Beecroft will be 32 when she's released from the women's state prison in Shakopee and put on parole.
Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.


Rollercoaster of trials

Nicole Beecroft of Oakdale was initially tried as an adult and found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder when she was 17, and received a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole in 2008. 
It was the most severe penalty ever given to a teen mother in Minnesota for killing her newborn.
The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed that conviction last year after questions were raised as to whether medical examiners had been pressured not to testify in her defense during that first trial.
Also last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for those age 17 and younger were unconstitutional, as they ran counter to protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
During the retrial, the Washington County prosecutors' main focus was proving whether or not the baby girl had been born alive. Expert witnesses for the prosecution argued there was evidence that the infant had taken at least one breath and was alive prior to the stabbing, but medical examiners for the defense said all the evidence pointed to a stillbirth.


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