Image: Christy Freeman
AP
Christy Freeman has been charged in the death of one newborn found last week wrapped in a bloodied towel under her bathroom sink. Four other pre-term babies were found at her home on Monday.
updated 8/1/2007 5:35:51 PM ET 2007-08-01T21:35:51

Investigators trying to fill gaps in a case with daunting legal and forensic issues wrapped up a three-day search Wednesday at the home of a woman suspected of killing her newborn son and hiding the bodies of three other pre-term infants.

Investigators must determine whether all four bodies found at the home were the offspring of Christy Freeman. Freeman, who also has four living children, has been charged in the death of one newborn found last week wrapped in a bloodied towel under her bathroom sink.

That body was determined to have been at 26-weeks gestation. Investigators still need to figure out how old the others were when they died, when they died, and whether Freeman or someone else was responsible for the deaths.

The timing is critical. If the pre-term infants were too young to be considered viable outside the womb, Freeman can’t be charged with murder. And if they were old enough to live outside the womb, but died before Maryland passed its 2005 fetal homicide law, it may not be a crime even if Freeman caused their deaths.

On Wednesday, investigators spent about three hours in the house, carrying at least eight brown paper bags to an evidence van. Police spokesman Barry Neeb said the bags contained potential evidence, but not human remains. He would not elaborate.

“Nothing they got was a surprise,” he said.

The search was “tying up loose ends,” Neeb said. “They just want to go back in and make sure they haven’t missed anything.”

Murder probe meets abortion debate
With the completion of the search, Freeman’s four children and her longtime boyfriend, Raymond W. Godman Jr., were free to return to the home, authorities said. Godman has not been named as a suspect, Neeb said Tuesday.

The 2005 fetal homicide was designed to penalize those who kill a pregnant woman or her viable fetus, but it includes a provision shielding pregnant women from prosecution for actions that result in their own fetus’s death.

The exemption, meant to preserve the right to an abortion, hasn’t been challenged in the courts, said Denise Burke, vice president and legal director of Americans United for Life, a Chicago-based group that seeks common ground on abortion issues.

Cindy Boersma, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said there is nothing ambiguous about the exemption.

“The only reason the bill passed was because it explicitly contained that exemption,” she said.

State Delegate Susan K. McComas, a Republican who co-sponsored the 2005 bill, said the exemption was added by majority Democrats who feared the bill would restrict a woman’s right to abortion. “We weren’t contemplating a woman doing something to her own fetus,” McComas said.

'A war of experts'
Prosecutors and police concede it could take months to sort out all the physical evidence and determine what charges, if any, may be appropriate for Freeman if the three sets of older remains found in her home and Winnebago belonged to her.

“It may turn into a war of experts, with the prosecution experts saying the fetus was viable and the defense experts saying the fetus was not viable, or it’s impossible to know whether the fetus was viable,” said Baltimore attorney Andrew D. Levy.

Investigators went through dirt from an overgrown lot next to Freeman’s home shovel by shovel on Tuesday.

“We need to gather as much evidence as we can,” Police Chief Bernadette DiPino. The prosecutor, State’s Attorney Joel Todd, is “going to have a challenging case as it is.”

DiPino also said that a specialist planned to examine Freeman to try to find out how she got bruises on her thighs, abdomen and forearm before she was admitted to a hospital Thursday with heavy bleeding.

Suspect in need of a new lawyer
Police want to know whether the bruises were accidental, self-inflicted or caused by someone else. They have not ruled out the possibility of more charges.

Todd, the prosecutor, has said little about how he plans to proceed. He told reporters Monday that the state “will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she did something to cause that baby to be stillborn.”

Freeman professed innocence in a bail hearing Monday but didn’t offer an explanation for the four sets of remains. She was being held without bail Wednesday.

The lawyer who represented her at a bail review hearing is no longer her attorney, and the district court clerk’s office said she did not yet have a new lawyer.

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