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ND woman accused of drowning newborn baby in bathroom

Stephanie Lindstrom, of Bowman, listens during the preliminary hearing for her murder trial Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, at Bowman County Courthouse. Katherine Lymn / Forum News Service

BOWMAN - A trial has been set for December in the case of a Bowman woman accused of murdering her newborn baby earlier this year.

At a preliminary hearing Thursday in the Bowman County Courthouse, defendant Stephanie Lindstrom pleaded not guilty to a Class AA felony charge of murder. Lindstrom is accused of giving birth to a live baby, then drowning it sometime during a three-day period she spent being sick in a bathroom in her home, according to testimony Thursday.

Bowman Police Chief Charles Headley said during the hearing that the day before police came to the house to help persuade a gravely ill Lindstrom to go to the hospital, her boyfriend and mother looked through the bathroom doorway and saw 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 they were unaware of her pregnancy.

The baby’s body was discovered only after Lindstrom was coaxed into visiting the hospital July 23, said Headley, the sole witness Thursday. Lindstrom’s boyfriend and mother reported a “discovery made in the home” - the body of a baby in the bathroom - just hours after Lindstrom went to the hospital.

A family nurse practitioner put the baby in a blanket and a basin, and an ambulance took it to the hospital.

A coroner determined the baby was born alive and that the cause of death was drowning.

Bowman County State’s Attorney Andrew Weiss said the state showed probable cause that Lindstrom murdered the 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.

Defense attorney Erica Chisholm Jaehning pointed out that the coroner’s report concluded only a cause of death, not a manner of death.

Southwest District Judge Zane Anderson told attorneys while the case involved circumstantial evidence and lacked eyewitnesses, there was probable cause to go to trial.

If convicted, Lindstrom could face life in prison without parole. Her jury trial is scheduled for Dec. 4 before Judge William Herauf.

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