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Ottawa County mother indicted in baby's death

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Mulligan Jessica M. Hubley is pregnant again, authorities said.

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PORT CLINTON - More than a year and a half after a newborn girl was found dead in a creek in western Ottawa County, authorities yesterday publicly identified a Toledo-area woman as the infant's mother and arrested her on five felony charges.

Jessica M. Hubley, 20, was booked into the Ottawa County jail less than five hours after a grand jury indicted her on two counts of tampering with evidence, two counts of possession of drugs, and one count of abuse of a corpse. The most serious of those charges, tampering with evidence, is a third-degree felony with a maximum prison term of five years.

Authorities said Ms. Hubley took cocaine while pregnant with the girl and that toxicology reports indicated that "chronic" use of the drug could have contributed to the baby's death. Investigators believe the full-term baby, whose body was found April 11, 2004, was stillborn.

An autopsy by the Lucas County Coroner's Office found cocaine in the baby's system.

Investigators expressed relief at being able to file charges and take Ms. Hubley into custody. She was arrested about 2:50 p.m. at a Perrysburg Township home.

"I'm having a tough time getting over the fact that the baby went in the creek," Ottawa County Sheriff Bob Bratton said.

The sheriff and county Prosecutor Mark Mulligan said the investigation was slowed because authorities had trouble finding witnesses, had to wait for toxicology and DNA test results, and couldn't speak with Ms. Hubley.

Sheriff Bratton said Ms. Hubley made several appointments to meet with investigators but never kept any of them.

Authorities received information in the spring of 2004 that pointed to Ms. Hubley as the baby's mother, the sheriff said. Investigators obtained a DNA sample from Ms. Hubley when she was in the county's minimum security lockup from May 24 to June 2, 2004, for underage consumption.

Sheriff Bratton said corrections officers collected utensils and tissues that Ms. Hubley used and sent those items to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. Also analyzed was the baby's muscle tissue and a sample voluntarily provided by Shawn Tabbert of Genoa, who authorities have identified as the baby's father.

DNA analysis of those items showed a probability of 32 million to 1 that Ms. Hubley and Mr. Tabbert were the baby's parents, according to the sheriff's office.

Mr. Tabbert has not been charged. Mr. Mulligan said Mr. Tabbert was romantically involved with Ms. Hubley until around the time of the child's birth, and that authorities don't believe he knew his then-girlfriend was pregnant.

However, Sheriff Bratton said friends of Ms. Hubley knew more than they were willing to tell investigators. "I would honestly say there are some close friends of hers who were not truthful with us," the sheriff said.

Investigators think Ms. Hubley gave birth at a house two doors from the Rieman Road bridge in Allen Township and then left the baby in Cedar Creek.

Mr. Mulligan said authorities did not seek charges of murder, child endangering, or child abuse because they could not confirm that the baby was born alive.

"We looked into child endangering and child abuse charges, and those charges are just not appropriate until the child has been born [alive]," the prosecutor said.

At the time the baby was born, Ms. Hubley was living in Allen Township, authorities said. The indictment filed against her yesterday in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court lists her last known address as being on Nora Drive in Perrysburg Township. Authorities said she had been staying recently at a home on Sylvania Avenue in Toledo and working as a waitress at Hooters' restaurant on Monroe Street.

Sheriff Bratton said Ms. Hubley is pregnant again and due to give birth in March.

Ms. Hubley was set to make an initial appearance on the charges at 3 p.m. today in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court.

Mr. Mulligan and Sheriff Bratton said at least some of the charges against Ms. Hubley could have been avoided if she had gone to a hospital to give birth or called 911 after the delivery. A state law allows parents to turn over a baby to police, firefighters, or medical professionals within 72 hours without risk of prosecution.

By doing so, she might have left the baby "healthy and with a future instead of dead at the bottom of a creek," Mr. Mulligan said.

Contact Steve Murphy at:

smurphy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.

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