At a preliminary arraignment in Butte County Superior Court Tuesday, Gina Rose Grinsell, a 20-year-old Chico State sophomore accused of killing her newborn son, was charged with one count of murder and one count of assaulting a child with intent to kill. Both charges carry potential life sentences.
Prosecutors claim Grinsell strangled her baby with her bare hands after delivering it alone in her bedroom at the Kappa Sigma Delta sorority house on Cedar Street while her sorority sisters were having a party in another part of the house.
Grinsell appeared disheveled, distraught and on the verge of tears as she took her place before Judge Gerald Hermansen. She was calm as District Attorney Mike Ramsey read the grim charges against her, while many of the sorority sisters who had showed up to support her burst into tears.
The arraignment itself lasted only a few minutes. Before the proceedings began, Kappa Sigma Delta President Briana Nagle told reporters that she and the other inhabitants of the house were still in a “state of shock” over the incident. Nagle characterized Grinsell as “the most caring person I know” and as someone was always willing to help a friend in trouble.
“It’s so surreal,” she said. “It’s like it hasn’t hit yet. All the sisters are trying to carry on the best we can.”
After the arraignment, Ramsey answered questions from reporters outside the courtroom. He said Grinsell’s baby was born healthy on the evening of April 1, while a social event involving 30-40 people went on in another part of the house. Apparently, no one heard Grinsell giving birth in her bedroom or checked to see if she was in her room. The baby, a 9.5-pound, 22-inch boy, was apparently born alive, Ramsey said, as an autopsy showed air in the baby’s lungs. The autopsy also showed bruises and marks on the baby’s neck where he had apparently been strangled within a few minutes of birth.
Grinsell may have tried to hide her pregnancy from her friends and certainly did hide it from her parents, Ramsey said. The child was found by a sorority sister the day after he was born in Grinsell’s bedroom. He had been wrapped in a plastic Wal-Mart bag and left in a bucket.
Authorities were apparently contacted by workers at a medical clinic to which Grinsell had been brought for a checkup, as her friends had become concerned about her condition.
The father of the child has not yet been found, though Ramsey said investigators were working on it. Grinsell apparently gave prosecutors a first name of a man who may be the father, but there were doubts as to the veracity of that statement. It is believed that the child was not the product of a “long-term relationship.”
When asked to speculate on Grinsell’s possible motive, Ramsey said, “All of us need to understand that there is a huge ‘why?’ here. Here we have a young woman who appears to have thrown her child’s life away, as well as possibly her own.”
It isn’t known whether Grinsell was aware that California’s “Safely Surrendered Baby” law allows for an unwanted child to be dropped off at a hospital with no questions asked and no charges brought. The law, which went into effect this year, was designed to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring.
Grinsell’s attorney, Dennis Lattimer, said Grinsell had never been in trouble before, was doing well in school and had the love and support of her family and friends. He declined to characterize her overall mental state, saying she had “lost a lot of blood” and was still upset and somewhat dazed from her ordeal. When asked what his defense strategy might be, Lattimer said he would be conducting his own investigation into the matter and would base his court strategy on the findings of that investigation.
Grinsell’s bail was set at $1 million. She will be formally arraigned before Judge Robert Glusman on Monday, April 12.