Gina Rose’s baby

The Chico State sorority woman accused of killing her newborn baby pleaded innocent to murder charges at her formal arraignment Monday.

Prosecutors say Gina Rose Grinsell, a 20-year-old sophomore from San Francisco and member of the Kappa Sigma Delta sorority, gave birth in her bedroom to a healthy boy on the night of April 1 while a party was going on in the house. According to investigators, Grinsell then immediately strangled the baby, wrapped him in a plastic grocery sack and discarded him in a bucket.

District Attorney Mike Ramsey said an autopsy of the 9.5-pound child showed marks and abrasions around his neck as well as “hemorrhaging of the neck muscles” consistent with bare-handed strangulation.

“It’s fairly clear from the autopsy results that she reached over or reached down and choked the life out of her baby,” Ramsey said.

But Grinsell’s defense attorney, Dennis Latimer, contends the prosecution has been “jumping to conclusions” in the case and intends to prove it by carrying out an independent investigation. While the results of an autopsy are in, there is other forensic evidence that has yet to be processed. Latimer tried in court Monday to have Grinsell’s bail reduced from its present $1 million but was overruled by Judge Rob Glusman, who was apparently swayed by some undisclosed argument from Ramsey. Ramsey declined to say publicly what he told the judge because he worried his argument might taint public opinion, making it harder to find an impartial jury.

Grinsell’s case has brought out both condemnation and support for the young mother. Her sorority sisters have pledged to stand behind her and have attended Grinsell’s court cases wearing yellow and black ribbons, often weeping and clutching teddy bears. Grinsell reportedly told her friends that the baby inside her was a “non-malignant tumor” in an effort to hide the pregnancy. Ramsey also disclosed this week that, while the baby seemed perfectly healthy to medical examiners, Grinsell told police she suspected there was something wrong with the child.

The father has yet to be found and may not even be aware of the situation, Ramsey said. Grinsell gave authorities names of two men she had engaged in sex with last year, one in August and the other in July. Since some form of birth control was used in the August but not the July encounter, investigators are focusing on the earlier one. The father, who is thought to live somewhere south of the Bay Area, may have known the accused for only a few days, or even less. His identity would be important to the case only if it helped determine a motive for the crime, Ramsey said.

Infanticide in the U.S. is rare but not as uncommon as many would like to think. According to the Department of Justice, 265 children were killed in 2000 before they reached their first birthday, about 60 percent of them by members of their own family. That same year, 601 kids under 5 were killed. Statistics show that male children are most often the victims in the U.S. and that the risk of infanticide drops significantly after the baby reaches the age of 2.