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More than seven years after her newborn baby was found discarded in a trash bin at a Sylvania Township apartment building, Natalie Nirdlinger returned to Lucas County Common Pleas Court to forever seal the case.
Judge James Jensen granted a motion yesterday to expunge the now 23-year-old's criminal case that began in 2001 after she gave birth to a daughter and left the child in a trash bin. The baby was found soon after.
Nirdlinger, who was 16 at the time, originally was charged with attempted murder and child endangering. In September, 2002, she pleaded no contest to attempted involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to five years of probation including community service hours.
Attorney Jerry Phillips said yesterday a negotiated part of the plea agreement was that the prosecutor's office would not object to sealing the case if Nirdlinger successfully completed her probation requirements and had no other criminal cases.
"It's an appropriate resolution, especially because of the fact that the baby was unharmed," Mr. Phillips said after the hearing.
The baby girl was found Oct. 10, 2001, in a plastic bag in a trash bin outside Wellington House Apartments, 4312 Holland-Sylvania Rd., in Sylvania Township. A resident heard the baby's cries, dug in the trash, and saw the silhouette of an infant in a plastic shopping bag. The baby was taken to a hospital for treatment of hypothermia and respiratory distress.
She was placed temporarily in the custody of Lucas County Children Services and eventually adopted after a lengthy process by the parents of the boy who fathered her. Terry and Jean Wolfe, who were granted custody, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Nirdlinger was originally charged with delinquency in Lucas County Juvenile Court after DNA testing confirmed she was the mother. She was certified to stand trial as an adult and indicted by a grand jury in March, 2002, for attempted murder and child endangering.
At her October, 2002, sentencing, Nirdlinger broke into tears after declaring she was happy that her baby was safe.
Yesterday, Nirdlinger and her mother left the courthouse without comment.
Mr. Phillips reiterated yesterday that his client suffered from a psychological condition at the time and had truly not known she was pregnant.
At the time of Nirdlinger's sentencing, Judge Jensen noted that a psychological evaluation indicated that she suffered from "neonaticide syndrome," which is defined as the killing of an infant within 24 hours of its birth, often by teenage girls who have denied their pregnancies and experienced a psychotic break at the time of delivery.
Mr. Phillips said Nirdlinger has not had any contact with the girl, who is 7. He said Nirdlinger has since completed college and is in graduate school.
Though the record is sealed to the public, it is still available to certain types of law enforcement searches and to those doing background checks if Nirdlinger were to apply for a medical or teaching license, Mr. Phillips said.
He added that the types of cases eligible for expungement are listed in state law. He said though offenses of violence are not normally sealed, Nirdlinger's case was expunged because it was a part of the plea agreement.
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