MOM JAILED: Plymouth woman to serve year for baby's death
By KIMBERLY ASHTON
For The Patriot Ledger
NORTHAMPTON - Jennifer Paluseo didn't know what she was doing when she put her newborn son in a garbage bag and threw him in the trash, her family says.
But the baby's paternal grandparents insist the Plymouth woman was fully aware of her pregnancy.
Paluseo, who admitted killing the baby while she was a student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst will spend the next year in jail.
Shaking to the point where he had to sit down in a courtroom yesterday, the baby's paternal grandfather, William Barrus, wept as he spoke of the pain of losing his grandson, who was named Cameron Barrus at a ''baptism'' held after the boy's death.
While Paluseo is behind bars Barrus said, he'll ''go to Cameron's grave and pray for his soul.''
Paluseo was a 19-year-old freshman in May 2002, when she gave birth in a dormitory shower, cut the umbilical cord, cleaned the afterbirth and put the baby in a garbage bag before throwing him in the trash. The medical examiner determined that the baby died from asphyxiation.
Paluseo, 21, pleaded guilty last month in Hampshire Superior Court to charges of involuntary manslaughter - which had been reduced from murder - and removing or conveying a dead body.
She maintains that she does not remember the baby's birth and her defense has been that she was in denial over her pregnancy and entered a detached mental state when she gave birth and tried to get rid of the body.
''This is one of the most difficult cases I've had,'' Superior Judge Judd Carhart said before sentencing Paluseo to 2½ years in jail. He ordered her to serve one year of the sentence and suspended the balance during 10 years of probation.
Paluseo, who wept throughout court yesterday, will serve her sentence in the Ludlow jail, said her attorney, Terry Nagel of Springfield.
In sentencing Paluseo, Carhart said he was influenced by the crush of letters in her support that poured in from her community. At the same time, the judge said, he respected the emotional plea the baby's paternal grandparents made in urging him to sentence Paluseo to the full seven to nine years recommended by prosecutor Renee Steese.
The baby's father, William Barrus Jr., 21, was not at the sentencing. But Nagel said he has supported his former girlfriend.
Paluseo's family sat quietly behind her. In a letter to Carhart, Elizabeth Paluseo wrote that her daughter is someone ''who always thinks about the other person first.''
''I honestly don't believe Jennifer realized what was happening,'' her mother wrote.
But the baby's other grandmother, Cynthia Barrus, said in court that ''the defense team cannot convince me that she did not know she was pregnant and gave birth.''
Paluseo's father, David, wrote that he finds his daughter's actions ''so difficult to understand'' because ''Jennifer is truly a good person.''
Many letters from friends, neighbors, teachers and employers reinforced a picture of Paluseo as a kind, gentle, sensitive woman who goes to church every Sunday and is active in community service.
''Her seemingly uncaring-stoic demeanor in the courtroom is in no way indicative of the person she is,'' wrote Jane Fitzgibbon, a family friend.
Nancy M. Sealey, Paluseo's fifth-grade teacher, wrote, ''She made an extraordinary effort to make each person feel valued, included and cared for.''
Most of Paluseo's supporters wrote that they are convinced she must have been detached from reality when she committed the crime.
''Jen's traumatic episode was a result of fear, which robbed her own mind, body and soul,'' wrote elementary teacher Kimberly Simonsen.
Steese, the prosecutor, told Carhart that the letters portray an exceedingly ''rosy'' view of Paluseo and trivialize the baby's death.
Paluseo's therapist for the past 22 months, Lorna McKenzie-Pollock, wrote that Jennifer is an ''extremely emotionally fragile'' woman although she ''superficially presents as functional.''
Whenever talking about the baby or the possibility of serving a prison sentence, Paluseo breaks out in red patches on her face and neck, cannot stay on the topic or appears ''to be talking about someone else,'' McKenzie-Pollock wrote.
''She is currently working on learning to tolerate staying with these feelings and talking about them,'' the therapist wrote.
Are you kidding me?Jennifer Paluseo didn't know what she was doing when she put her newborn son in a garbage bag and threw him in the trash, her family says.
I think she should do every day of the 9 years recommended by the prosecutors. She doesnt remember being pregnant?? BS! My wife is almost 8 months pregnant...come on...a "detached mental state"? Right...enjoy lockdown biatch...