South Bend woman who abandoned baby gets 10 years

OLYMPIA — A South Bend woman was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison after giving birth in an Olympia hospital bathroom last year and abandoning the boy in a trash can, seriously injuring him.

Jasmin Ritchey, 24, also is barred from ever having contact with the boy. Ritchey, who pleaded guilty earlier to first-degree assault of a child, tearfully apologized before her sentencing and said she can never forgive herself.

In exchange for her guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss a charge of attempted second-degree murder.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor sentenced Ritchey to the middle of the standard sentencing range, giving her more prison time than Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Skinder and Ritchey’s defense attorney had jointly recommended. They had agreed to recommend that she serve seven years, nine months.

According to Olympia police:

Ritchey was taken via ambulance to Providence St. Peter Hospital for help with an unrelated medical complaint July 11, 2011. Without telling anyone she was pregnant, she entered the bathroom and gave birth. She put the child in a plastic bag, which she put in the garbage.

Hospital staff members later checked the bathroom to see what Ritchey had done and found the boy; they were able to resuscitate him. He was treated and later received advanced care at an undisclosed children’s hospital.

Skinder said in court Thursday that the child’s condition has improved, but only time will tell how the circumstances of his birth will affect his development. He was born with a brain bleed and an addiction to prescription medication, Skinder said.

“He had some pretty serious medical conditions to begin with,” he said. “The good news is, he’s doing a lot better. We’re all hopeful.”

Skinder said that if the case had gone to trial, he could have proved Ritchey wove “a web of lies” about her pregnancy. He added that mental health professionals determined that Ritchey does not suffer from a psychiatric condition.

During sentencing, Tabor said he hopes Ritchey gains the skills to turn her life around, to forgive herself and help others. Tabor imposed a lifetime domestic-violence protection order prohibiting her from any contact with her son.

“Making up stories never helps anything,” Tabor told Ritchey.

It’s not clear why Ritchey was in Thurston County when she gave birth.

Washington has a safe-haven law that allows a person to leave a baby, up to 3 days old, with a staff member or volunteer at any fire station, or in the emergency room of any hospital. Police have said the incident involving Ritchey, and another incident last year in Olympia in which a woman gave birth without telling anyone, underscore the need to spread the word about the law.