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Hearing set to begin for mother accused of leaving her baby in Dumpster
Jessica Mae Betts has been charged by the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office with first-degree murder of her infant daughter. - photo by Photo Contributed
On Nov. 8, 2008, a newborn baby girl wrapped up in a plastic shopping bag with clothing and towels was found dead in a Dumpster behind a Turlock grocery store. The grizzly discovery launched an exhaustive investigation that culminated with the arrest of the baby’s mother on a homicide charge.
Now, more than a year later, the preliminary hearing for Jessica Mae Betts, 20, is scheduled to start next week. The preliminary hearing will determine if there is enough evidence to hold Betts over for trial in the death of her daughter, Maria Mae Betts.
Betts has been charged by the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office with first-degree murder, saying she did “with malice aforethought murder Maria Mae Betts” and “acted intentionally, deliberately, and with premeditation.” She has pled not guilty and has been held at the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center since her arrest in November of last year. She is facing life in prison if she is found guilty.
Betts was in court Thursday for a pretrial motion. The defense has subpoenaed medical records from St. Jospeh’s Behavioral Health Center in Stockton and the request was granted by a Stanislaus County Superior Court judge. The defense did not state whose medical records they were requesting, but Judge Donald Shaver said he would review them and pass along any documents related to the defense’s request.
Betts was arrested on Nov. 20, 2008, after the Turlock Police Department received a tip from her mother, Lillie Betts, saying she believed her daughter was the one who had dumped the newborn.
According to an affidavit for Bett’s arrest, Lillie Betts told investigators she noticed Betts had a “drastic weight gain and refused to go to a doctor and take a pregnancy test when requested by family.”
Lillie Betts said she read newspaper stories about the discovery of the newborn and thought it was more than a coincidence that the baby was found with a pair of purple sweatpants and Betts owned a pair of purple sweatpants. According to the affidavit, Lillie Betts confronted Betts about her possible role in the baby’s death and Betts denied any involvement.
“Lillie felt Jessica was lying and suspected Jessica was involved,” an investigator wrote in the affidavit.
The newborn girl was found in a tied plastic Target shopping bag with the purple sweatpants, a light blue bath towel, and a kitchen towel. The umbilical cord was still attached to the baby. She was rushed to Emanuel Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. The affidavit stated the baby’s core body temperature was 84 degrees Fahrenheit, which indicated the baby had died fairly recently.
In an interview with investigators, Betts admitted to being pregnant and delivered the baby in the bathroom of her boyfriend’s home. She said the newborn was born alive and that she tried to conceal the cries “to prevent family members from hearing the newborn and discovering that she had been pregnant,” according to the affidavit.
Betts detailed for investigators that she cut the umbilical cord herself and delivered the placenta. She said she cut the placenta and flushed it down the toilet, according to the affidavit.
She recalled wrapping the newborn in the purple sweatpants and the bath towel, left the house in her boyfriend’s 1989 white Chevrolet and drove to Save Mart. She said she sat in the car and cried while the baby’s breathing slowed and then stopped.
She told investigators she did not remember any other details. She said she had no recollection about how the baby ended up in the Dumpster, according to the affidavit.
Bett’s next court appearance is at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.