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Utah woman in C-section casepleads innocent to murder charge

Melissa Ann Rowland, shown in a police photo, has been charged with murder for allegedly ignoring a doctor's warnings to undergo a Caesarean section.Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

The woman charged with murder after allegedly avoiding a Caesarean section that doctors say would have saved the lives of her unborn twins pleaded innocent Monday.

One of the babies, a boy, was stillborn. The other, a girl, survived and already has been adopted.

Melissa Ann Rowland, 28, appeared in court via video teleconference from jail. Her attorney entered an innocent plea on her behalf to one count of criminal homicide.

Prosecutors say Rowland ignored multiple recommendations that she get a C-section to save the lives of her twins.

Rowland, who has denied refusing a C-section, also faces child endangerment charges for the surviving baby, who was found to have cocaine and alcohol in her system. She is scheduled to be in court Tuesday on that charge.

Rowland was convicted of child endangerment in Pittsburgh nearly four years ago, a newspaper has reported.

Probation for punching older daughter
The 2000 conviction stemmed from a supermarket incident in which she punched her daughter several times in the face after the toddler picked up a candy bar and began eating it, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Saturday. Witnesses said Rowland screamed, “You ate the candy bar and now I can’t buy my cigarettes.”

A court in Allegheny County, Pa., sentenced Rowland to five years probation for simple assault, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child. Her daughter was turned over to a child-welfare agency.

Prosecutors in Salt Lake City charged Rowland with criminal homicide and child endangerment for refusing doctors’ advice to get a C-section. Charging documents allege that Rowland was warned numerous times between Christmas and Jan. 9 that her twins would likely die if she did not get immediate medical treatment.

Rowland, of the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan, has denied prosecutors’ claims that she avoided the surgery because of fears of scarring.

Her attorney, Michael Sikora, has said Rowland has a history of mental illness. Rowland said she attempted suicide twice and has spent time in a psychiatric hospital.