A loophole in state law is preventing Campbell County investigators from charging a woman they say killed her newborn baby.
Deputies were called to a home in the 1200 block of Lone Jack Road in Rustburg around 11:00a.m. Friday. The caller said a woman in her early 20s was in labor. When deputies arrived, they discovered the baby had actually been born around 1:00a.m., about ten hours earlier. Investigators say the baby was already dead when deputies got there.
Investigators tell WSLS the baby's airway was still blocked. They say the baby was under bedding and had been suffocated by her mother. Investigators say because the mother and baby were still connected by the umbilical cord and placenta, state law does not consider the baby to be a separate life. Therefore, the mother cannot be charged.
"In the state of Virginia as long as the umbilical cord is attached and the placenta is still in the mother, if the baby comes out alive the mother can do whatever she wants to with that baby to kill it.", says Investigator Tracy Emerson. "She could shoot the baby, stab the baby. As long as it's still
attached to her in some form by umbilical cord or something it's no crime in the state of Virginia."
The Campbell County Sheriff's Office and Commonwealth's Attorney's office worked unsuccessfully to get the law changed after another baby died in the county in a similar case. Emerson says they asked two delegates and one state senator to take the issue up in the General Assembly. He says the three lawmakers refused because they felt the issue was too close to the abortion issue.
Emerson tells us there's a double standard with the law. If someone other than the mother harms a baby still attached to the mother, that person can be charged.
The baby's grandmother was home and was the one who called 911. Police say she will not be charged because the baby was born in the middle of the night and the grandmother did not know until late morning. Investigators tell us the baby's father was upset when he showed up at the home after deputies.
"He was very upset. I think the grandparents were upset. I believe everyone was upset, except for the person who should have been upset, the mother.", says Emerson.
Emerson tells us the woman knew she was pregnant and had received prenatal care. He says the baby was full-term, due Tuesday. The medical examiner says the baby was born healthy. An autopsy is being performed. The baby's body will then be released to the family.