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Case of girl who hid baby stays in adult court


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A Douglas County District Court judge refused today to transfer to Juvenile Court the case of a Guatemalan woman who gave birth at home and hid the baby in a laundry basket.

Judge J Russell Derr ruled that Juvenile Court would have limited time to work with Maria Vargas to provide her the rehabilitation she needs.

Authorities initially said Vargas was 18 when she was arrested in March, but a birth certificate from Guatemala indicates she was 17, Derr wrote.

According to Derr's order:

Vargas, who faces felony child abuse charges, locked herself in a bathroom for a half-hour and would not tell her mother or brother what was wrong.

Vargas's mother described seeing her daughter in the bathroom with a large amount of blood on the floor. The mother described Vargas' using a plunger on the toilet in the bathroom and yelling, "It's ugly."

Vargas, who is now 18, was taken to a hospital, where a doctor determined she had delivered a baby. Vargas denied delivering the baby.

Omaha police searched Vargas' house and found the baby, still covered in blood and with the umbilical cord attached, under some clothes in a laundry basket.

The newborn girl suffered some brain damage, possibly permanent, because her airway was blocked by the clothing, Derr wrote. The baby is now in foster care, although Vargas has been allowed supervised visits.

Vargas told an attorney that she knew she was pregnant but was afraid to tell her mother. She said she believed the baby was dead because she was not breathing. She said she placed the baby in the laundry basket three to four hours before police found her.

An attorney acting on behalf of the baby described Vargas as childlike. She said she believed Vargas could be rehabilitated.

Derr noted that the defendant is "not mature for her age" and "is totally dependent on the support of her family to survive."

However, he said he should retain jurisdiction, "given all the needs of this defendant."

(C) 2005 Omaha World-Herald. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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