Melissa Ann Rowland
Salt Lake County prosecutors on Thursday charged a West Jordan woman with criminal homicide in the death of her stillborn baby. Prosecutors claim the woman ignored repeated warnings in the last few weeks of pregnancy that the twins she was carrying could die or suffer brain damage unless she had an immediate Caesarean section.
Melissa Ann Rowland, 28, had refused medical treatment, saying she would rather die than go to either of the two recommended hospitals, and that being cut "from breast bone to pubic bone" would ruin her life, the county District Attorney's Office alleges in a probable-cause statement filed in 3rd District Court.
Rowland, also known as Melissa Hrosik, faces up to life in prison if convicted of the first-degree felony. Her attorney, Michael Sikora, said she has been in jail since shortly after giving birth in mid-January on a child endangerment charge involving the surviving twin, a girl who has been adopted.
Sikora, a public defender, said Rowland has a long history of mental illness and was first committed to a
hospital at age 12.
What makes the prosecution's case extraordinary is it presumes the state can second-guess an expectant mother's choice on major medical care.
"This is nothing if not a very novel legal theory," Sikora said. "If it prevails, it raises questions about what a mother can or cannot do with respect to the safety of her unborn child. If a doctor says this will be a very difficult pregnancy and you should get complete bed rest for the last three months and the mother doesn't and the baby is stillborn, is she guilty of murder? If she smokes, is it murder? If she doesn't eat right, is it murder?"
But Kent Morgan, deputy Salt Lake County prosecutor and a spokesman for District Attorney David Yocom,
said Rowland's crime stems from the depraved indifference and utter callousness she showed toward her unborn
"It's not just the conduct, it's the knowledge, the state of mind," he said.
The probable cause statement claims that Rowland was told numerous times from Dec. 25, 2003, to Jan. 9, 2004, that her twins faced life-threatening conditions and could die unless she pursued immediate medical attention.
Rowland told a nurse at LDS Hospital on Christmas Day that she had not felt the babies move. The nurse recommended that Rowland go at once to either Jordan Valley or Pioneer Valley Hospital, according to the probable-cause statement. But it says the nurse said Rowland told her "she would rather have both of her babies die before she went to either of those hospitals."
An obstetrician-gynecologist who saw Rowland at LDS Hospital on Jan. 2 recommended an immediate Caesarean section because of problems with the fetal heart rate and an ultrasound that indicated low amniotic fluid, the statement says. However, Rowland left after signing a statement indicating that she understood that leaving the hospital could result in death or significant brain injury to the babies, according to the statement.
Later the same day, Rowland showed up at Salt Lake Regional Hospital and told a nurse that she left LDS Hospital because a doctor there wanted to cut her "from breast bone to pubic bone" and this would "ruin her life," according to court records. In addition, she allegedly told the nurse that she would rather "lose one of the babies than be cut like that."
On Jan. 9, Rowland went to Pioneer Valley Hospital, the statement says. A nurse was unable to verify a fetal heart rate on one of the twins and told Rowland that she should remain for monitoring, but Rowland left anyway.
Sikora said child protection authorities were told of the situation when Rowland was still pregnant, but took no action.
"We have not been granted authority to intervene in the life of an unborn child," said Carol Sisco, a
spokeswoman for the Division of Child and Family Services. "We don't have jurisdictional authority."
The only agency with authority would have been a hospital, who could have petitioned to have a guardian appointed for the child. That guardian could have then petitioned a judge to force the medical procedure on Rowland.
A nurse who assisted in delivery of the twins at Pioneer Valley Hospital in West Valley City told investigators that Rowland arrived in labor on Jan. 13. A hospital staff member told Rowland that one of the babies was dead and the other was in distress, the nurse said.
She said Rowland resisted the recommendation that she deliver by C-section and insisted on going outside to smoke before eventually giving her consent for the operation. The boy was stillborn and the girl was in respiratory distress, the nurse said. A doctor reported that the girl also tested positive for cocaine and alcohol in her blood.
Edward Leis of the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner, who performed an autopsy on the boy, said the unborn child died two days before his sister was born "and further stated that if the defendant had delivered Baby Boy Rowland when her doctors had urged her to, the baby would have survived," the probable cause statement says.
Rowland was booked into jail on Jan. 14 -- just one day after delivering her twins -- on an endangerment
charge for allegedly taking drugs that harmed Hannah, the girl. Bail for that count was set at $50,000. For
the homicide charge, bail was set at $250,000.
The charges are another sad event in a life marked with mental problems, Sikora said.
He said Rowland, herself a twin, was born to a mentally retarded mother. She was placed in foster care almost immediately and adopted before her first birthday. Her twin brother had serious medical problems and died when he was 7, Sikora said.
Rowland was committed to a Pennsylvania mental hospital when she was 12, weighing almost 200 pounds, and diagnosed with "oppositional defiant disorder," Sikora said. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry defines the condition as an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant and hostile behavior toward authority figures that seriously interferes with day-to-day functioning.
His client was hospitalized in a mental facility at least one other time and told him she was diagnosed
with bipolar disorder, Sikora said. The defense attorney is waiting for records to confirm that.
Rowland's statements to doctors and nurses, says Vicki Cottrell, the executive director of the Utah chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, seem to confirm a mental illness.
"All I can say is there's no question this is not rational thinking," Cottrell said. "There are so many
things going on in a [mentally ill] person's mind, it really is not clearly black-and-white disobedience."
Rowland moved to Utah with a boyfriend and is either divorced or estranged from her husband, Sikora said. Court records show she was living on Social Security disability benefits and that managers of her apartment complex began eviction proceedings in late January after her arrest.
"This is major surgery," Sikora said of the Caesarian. "It would come as no surprise that a woman with major mental illness would fear it."
But Morgan said a determination of her mental state will have to be made during criminal proceedings and
nothing has been proven yet.
"What we're trying to send is the message that someone has to stand up for a child who could have been alive," he said.
Tribune reporter Jacob Santini contributed to this story.
* Melissa Ann Rowland could face up to life in prison if convicted of first-degree homicide for killing her unborn baby.
The Associated Press, Published Wednesday, September 14, 2016
WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The mother of a 10-year-old New Mexico girl found dead and dismembered told police she sought men online and at work to sexually assault her daughter, according to warrants obtained by the Albuquerque Journal.
Michelle Martens told police that she had set up encounters with at least three men to sexually assault her daughter, the Albuquerque Journal reported. The child's death sparked vigils and outcry across the state.
Canadian Press, (various newspapers across Canada, including the Toronto Star) Aug. 16, 2006.
ISLE LA MOTTE, Vt. A Montreal mother recovering from alleged self-inflicted wounds will be charged in the coming days with murdering her 8-year-old son, whose body was found in Lake Champlain, a Vermont state attorney said today.
I am going to prepare a charge of first-degree murder, Grand Isle States Attorney David Miller said in a telephone interview. Read More ..
Australian Associated Press
December 05, 2008
A WOMAN who killed her infant son by jumping with him from the eighth floor of a city apartment block has walked free after being convicted of manslaughter.
Yeeda Topham, 40, of Roleystone near Perth, had pleaded guilty in the West Australian Supreme Court to a charge of unlawfully killing 21-month-old James Topham on November 5 last year. Read More ..
Fire Officials Claim Fire Intentionally Set
NBC4-TV, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
LOS ANGELES, USA -- Murder charges are expected to be filed against a woman whose infant son's body was found in a washing machine after firefighters doused what they say was an intentionally set fire, authorities said Tuesday.
Latunga Starks, 32, was taken into custody last night, according to the Sheriff's Department Web site.
Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Dennis Shirey identified the mother and her nearly 3-month-old son, Michael Kelvin Thompson.
The Toronto Star, By Peter Small, Courts Bureau, March 01, 2008
Xuan (Linda) Peng has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the drowning death of her 4-year-old autistic daughter Scarlett in a bathtub in the family home.
A Superior Court jury returned its verdict Saturday morning after two days of deliberations.
Scarlett Chen was discovered unconscious by her distraught father David Chen in the tub on the second floor of the family's townhouse on Rosebank Dr., near Markham Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E. on July 12, 2004.
Peng told police that she had put their daughter down for a nap in the adjoining bedroom, and had no idea she had climbed into the bathtub, which the woman had filled with water to clean some kitchen utensils.
However, seven months later, homicide detectives charged the 36-year-old Chinese immigrant with first-degree murder. The charges were later reduced to second-degree murder. Read More ..
Associated Press, Globe and Mail, Tuesday, May. 13, 2003, Page A15
TYLER, TEX. -- A woman accused of fatally beating two of her sons with rocks spent Mother's Day sobbing and muttering in a jail cell.
Deanna LaJune Laney, 38, remained on suicide watch yesterday at Smith County Jail, where she was held in lieu of a $3-million (U.S.) bond on capital-murder and aggravated-assault charges.
Ms. Laney is accused of killing Joshua Laney, 8, and Luke Laney, 6, and injuring their 14-month-old brother, Aaron. The toddler remained in critical condition yesterday at a Dallas Hospital.
In a call to emergency workers early Saturday, Ms. Laney reported that she had just "bashed their heads in with a rock," Sheriff J. B. Smith said. Read More ..
Investigation into the Death of Zachary Andrew Turner (18 July 2002 to 18 August 2003)
Zachary Turner, a 13 months old baby, died at the hands of his fugitive mother, Dr. Shirley Turner, who killed him and then committed suicide on August 18, 2003.
Turner was facing extradition to the United States to stand trial for the 2001 murder of Dr. Andrew Bagby, Zachary's father.
28-year-old Dr. Andrew Bagby was found shot to death in Keystone State Park, 55 kilometres northeast of Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.A.
Turner fled to Newfoundland, Canada where Zachary was born. She was out on bail against the wishes of U.S. authorities at the time of Zachary's death. Read More ..
Canada's largest national newspaper
The Globe and Mail
October 6, 2006
Toronto - As a female friend of Frances Elaine Campione put it, this after Ms. Campione was charged on Wednesday with murder in the death of her two young children, "That mother needs a hug."
In that line, widely repeated in Toronto and national media outlets, is a telling clue to what is so wrong with much of what happens both in the nation's family courts and in its child-protection system -- the pervasive view of the female of the species as constantly nurturing (except, you know, when she allegedly kills) and as in need of constant nurture (hugs all 'round, no matter what).
For the record, Ms. Campione was arrested two days ago after she phoned 911 to report that there were two dead children inside her Barrie, Ont., apartment, and shortly after, didn't police arrive to find the bodies of her own little girls, one-year-old Sophia and three-year-old Serena.
She and her estranged husband Leo were reportedly in the throes of a nasty custody battle, with Mr. Campione accused of assaulting his wife and the older child, and Ms. Campione allegedly alarmed, and/or depressed, at the prospect of losing that fight.
And The Globe has confirmed that involved with the family was the Children's Aid Society of Simcoe County. At the moment, the nature of that involvement is unknown -- except as it has been reported by neighbours who saw social workers at the apartment and say that, for a time recently, the girls lived with their paternal grandparents.
Wednesday, May. 22, 2002
KINGSTON, Ont. (CP) -- An Ontario woman who was sentenced to 16 years in prison in one of Canada's stiffest penalties for child abuse will be released on full parole after serving less than half her term.
Lorelei Turner, 38, and her husband Steven were convicted of manslaughter in July 1995 for beating and starving their three-year-old son John to death in a case that horrified Canadians who followed the trial.
But on Wednesday, a panel of the National Parole Board in this eastern Ontario city ruled Turner will be released but placed on probation until July 2011.
Until then, she must remain within 25 kilometres of her residence, is not allowed unsupervised contact with anyone under 16, and must continue to receive counselling.
"The board would have looked at the risk and obviously found a low risk to reoffend," Carol Sparling of the National Parole Board said Wednesday.
The Associated Press, U.S.A., November 4, 2014
NEWPORT, Ore. -- A woman who said she threw her 6-year-old son off a historic bridge on the Oregon coast was arrested after the boy's body was found in the bay, police said.
Police and firefighters in the coastal city of Newport, Lincoln County deputies and the Coast Guard searched the bay with boats and a helicopter after Jillian Meredith McCabe, 34, of Seal Rock called 911 at 6:25 p.m. Monday to report throwing her son off the Yaquina Bay Bridge.
The boy's body was found at 10:23 p.m. in the bay after it was spotted near the Embarcadero Resort, police said.
Days after buying another woman Valentine's Day flowers, a Sydney father came home to find a trail of blood leading him to the bodies of his two young children lying next to their mother, a court has been told.
Australian Associated Press
Aug 24 2009
The woman had given the couple's three-year-old daughter and four-year-old son rat poison and an unidentified pink liquid before smothering them and killing them, court papers said.
She then tried to take her own life, the NSW Supreme Court was told.
Doctors agree the mother, from Canley Heights in Sydney's west, was suffering from "major depression" when she poisoned her children on February 19 last year.
She has pleaded not guilty to the two murders by reason of mental illness.
As her judge-alone trial began, the mother's lawyer told Justice Clifton Hoeben his client didn't think life was worth living after learning about her husband's affair.
ST. STEPHEN, N.B. - A New Brunswick judge says a woman who burned and dismembered her newborn son is criminally responsible for her actions.
Becky Sue Morrow earlier pleaded guilty to offering an indignity to a dead body and disposing of a newborn with the intent of concealing a delivery.
Judge David Walker ruled Friday that the 27-year-old woman may have been suffering from a mental disorder when she delivered the baby but that that was not the case when the baby's body was burned and its remains hidden.
It is not known if the baby was alive at the time of birth.
At a hearing last month, the court heard contrasting reports from the two psychiatrists. One said Ms. Morrow was in a "disassociated" mental state when the crime occurred. The other said she clearly planned her actions and understood the consequences.
The Toronto Star, April 3 2013
A woman has been sentenced to 27 months in prison in connection to the death of her nine-week-old son in a bizarre case where the infant boy's body has yet to be recovered.
Both parents Ricky Ray Doodhnaught, 32, and Nadia Ayyad, 24, have been implicated in the case that dates back to November 2011 when Children's Aid workers along with York Regional Police attempted to seize two children under a court order from a Vaughan home.
Associated Press, USA, published in Toronto Star, Oct. 24, 2019
LAS VEGAS USA- A Las Vegas woman who waged a court custody battle for her 6-year-old son set the boy afire earlier this month, igniting a house fire that killed them both, police and arson investigators found. Gasoline was detected on first-grader Gavin Palmer’s clothing, and the deaths of the boy and his mother, Renai Palmer, were investigated as a rare arson murder-suicide, Las Vegas police homicide Lt. Ray Spencer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a Wednesday report. The Clark County coroner’s office said Thursday the cause and manner of the two deaths remained under investigation.