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Published: Friday, 2/22/2013

Mother gets life in prison for murder of baby found in freezer

BLADE STAFF
Defendant Kenisha Pruitt at her arraignment. Defendant Kenisha Pruitt at her arraignment.
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The Toledo mother whose baby was found dead in a freezer at an East Toledo house pleaded guilty today to aggravated murder.

At an emotionally charged hearing in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, Kenisha Pruitt, 21, of 2631 Scottwood Ave., was then sentenced by Judge Linda Jennings to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

Two other charges -- abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence -- were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Pruitt’s newborn baby was found April 13 in a freezer at a home in the 600 block of Paine Avenue where Pruitt and the baby’s father, Antonio Cervantes, had lived together. An autopsy revealed the baby had been submerged in water, strangled, wrapped in a towel, and then placed in the freezer.

Mr. Cervantes is charged with involuntary manslaughter, tampering with evidence, child endangering, and abuse of a corpse. His case is pending.

Through questioning by her attorney, James Anderson, Pruitt answered a nearly inaudible “yes” to a series of questions about how the baby died.

She admitted she gave birth in the bathroom then gave the baby to Mr. Cervantes while she got into the bathtub to clean herself.

She admitted Mr. Cervantes handed the baby back to her and she held the baby under the water. She admitted she handed the infant back to Mr. Cervantes who gave her a shoelace to tie around the baby’s neck.

Pruitt again answered “yes” when Mr. McDonald asked her if Mr. Cervantes took the baby out of the room and told her he wrapped the child in plastic.

“The reason that you submerged the child was to terminate the child’s life?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

Immediately following Pruitt’s court appearance, Lucas County Proseuctor Julia Bates planned to announce a re-launch of the Safe Haven for Newborns initiative, which provides for the surrender of any unharmed baby up to 30 days old with complete anonymity for the parents and no risk of prosecution.

The impetus for the program is to save lives.

“It provides an alternative in the event of an unwanted child,” Ms. Bates said in a press release. “We want to focus on protection not prosecution.”



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