A district judge on Thursday set a $125,000 bail for a Lafayette woman who hid her dead newborn baby for 14 years.
Fifteenth Judicial District Judge Michelle Breaux also upheld the court’s establishment of probable cause in arresting 57-year-old Rebecca Landry on a count of second-degree murder in the child’s death.
Landry told police she was suffering from alcoholism in late 2001 when she gave birth at home and then, after the baby died a few days later, hid the infant in a cardboard box filled with women’s clothing, Lafayette police Detective Stephen Bajat testified at the Thursday hearing.
Landry’s court-appointed attorney, Elliot Brown, questioned the murder charge in court, arguing Landry has no criminal history of violence and had no intent for the child to die.
“Her negligence was not a direct act which contributed to the child’s death,” Brown said.
Prosecutor Emilia Pardo argued Landry’s admissions to police that she drank alcohol throughout her pregnancy and that the baby had trouble breathing when it was born proved the child’s death was a direct result of her actions.
“She neglected any medical care” both before and after the birth, Pardo said.
An autopsy is pending for the child, whose gender, birthday, date of death and cause of death have not been identified. It’s also unclear whether the baby — found in the cardboard box wearing a diaper and wrapped in a blanket — was born prematurely.
The infant survived for three days, Brown said.
A customer of Bridge Storage on Verot School Road discovered the newborn’s mummified corpse on June 3, when he purchased the storage unit and its contents at auction after Landry’s mother became delinquent on payments for more than a month, Bajat, the detective on the case, testified.
Landry was arrested the next day.
Landry denied anyone had knowledge of her pregnancy or the baby’s birth, including her mother, who began renting the storage unit in 2002 when Landry moved in with her parents, Bajat said. Before then, Landry kept the box at the two-story apartment she shared with her youngest child, who was 10 months old when the infant died.
Landry, who worked as a housekeeping supervisor at the Holiday Inn Express on Pinhook Road when she was arrested, surrendered custody of the now 14-year-old child to her daughter and son-in-law in 2008, according to court records.
She has cared for her elderly parents — today ages 86 and 90 — since moving into their Barracuda Street home in 2002, Brown said in court.
Although she’s been arrested before on a count of issuing worthless checks, she has never been subject to a Department of Children and Family Services investigation, he added.
State law on second-degree murder includes cruelty and second-degree cruelty to juveniles, “even though (the accused) has no intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm.”
A conviction calls for a life sentence.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825