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Turlock mother gets 8 years for dumping baby
Jessica Mae Betts, 20, entered a plea of no contest on Thursday in Stanislaus County Superior Court to the amended charges of felony child abuse. - photo by Photo Contributed
The Turlock woman who was accused of leaving her newborn baby in a Dumpster has accepted a plea deal that will send her to prison for eight years.
Jessica Mae Betts, 20, entered a plea of no contest on Thursday in Stanislaus County Superior Court to the amended charges of felony child abuse. Upon the entry of the plea, the judge sentenced Betts to eight years in state prison.
Betts had been facing felony murder charges in the death of her newborn daughter, Maria Mae Betts. The baby was found deceased in a Dumpster behind the Save Mart supermarket at 1631 Lander Ave., on Nov. 8, 2008. The newborn had been placed inside a plastic shopping bag. Betts’ fingerprints were later found on the bag.
During a preliminary hearing in December, a medical pathologist testified there was no direct evidence to say whether the baby was alive or dead when it was put into the shopping bag.
Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees said because there was no conclusive evidence of how and when the baby died, she had to amend the charges.
“If I can’t prove how and when the baby died, then I can’t prove murder,” Rees said. “However, I could prove the defendant’s failure to assist her (the baby) was certainly felony child endangerment that led to the baby’s death.”
Betts was arrested on Nov. 20, 2008, after her mother, Lillie Mae Betts, went to the police with her suspicion that her daughter was the woman who had given birth and discarded the newborn in the trash bin. A subsequent DNA test confirmed she was the mother of the baby.
Turlock Police Detective Sergio Perez testified during the preliminary hearing  that Betts initially was “bubbly” when he started speaking with her and told him that she didn’t have a child and that she wasn’t ready for one. Perez said about two hours later, Betts was sobbing and had admitted to giving birth to a baby on a bathroom floor.
Betts admitted she gave birth to the 8 pounds 1 ounce baby girl in the bathroom of her boyfriend’s parent’s house on English Avenue in Turlock around 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 8, 2008. She told the detective the baby came out head first and that she wrapped it in a towel. She said the baby made “whimpering” noises and moved her arms.
She described to the detective of cutting the afterbirth and flushing it down the toilet, then placing the baby in the car and driving to the Save Mart parking lot.
Perez testified that Betts told him she sat in the back seat of the car holding the baby as her breathing became shallow and eventually stopped.
“She said she kissed the baby and said she loved it,” Perez testified.
According to Betts’ statement to the detective, she doesn’t remember anything after that point until she was driving back home.
After the plea, Betts’ mother, Lillie Betts, spoke before the court to deliver a victim’s impact statement. She pledged herself to promoting the Safe Surrender law, which allows for newborns to be dropped off at a safe site, like a fire station or a hospital, without fear of prosecution. It also grants a period of time for a mother to come back and claim her baby without any legal repercussions.
At the conclusion of her statement Lillie Betts said, “No grandparent should have to hold their first grandchild for the first time in the coroner’s office.”
During the hearing Betts was quiet, except when her mother spoke and she started sobbing softly.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.