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Paramedic testifies about finding dead infant after being told woman suffered miscarriage

The paramedic took a woman to the hospital for a miscarriage, only to be asked to return to the home to look for a deceased infant

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By Aaron Besecker
The Buffalo News, N.Y.

TONAWANDA, N.Y. — In the basement of an Eggert Road home, Town of Tonawanda paramedic Rachel Kelley made a dreadful discovery.

In the early morning of Oct. 5, 2020, she opened the lid of a black garbage can at the bottom of the stairs.

Inside of a white plastic bag was a dead newborn baby boy.

About an hour earlier, she, another paramedic and town police visited the home for a woman in medical distress. They were told that the woman may have suffered a miscarriage, Kelley told jurors in State Supreme Court on Thursday.

A Twin City Ambulance crew transported her to Sisters Hospital. A short time later, doctors at the hospital called police and said they should go back to the home and search for a deceased newborn.

That is the scenario revealed in testimony at the murder trial of Andee R. Wright, 32, who is accused by prosecutors of killing the newborn. Jury selection in the case began Monday, and prosecutors called their first witness Wednesday.

Wright, who faces two counts of second-degree murder, has been out on bail since her arraignment in September 2021. The trial before Justice Paul Wojtaszek will continue next week.

Prosecutors have said the baby was 38 weeks old when he was born and have accused Wright of hitting the baby at least twice, causing two skull fractures.

Paul G. Dell , Wright’s defense attorney, has argued to the jury that the baby was stillborn. The blunt force trauma investigators say was on the baby’s head was not inflicted by Wright, according to Dell, but came during the delivery process.

The Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Baby Boy Wright’s death a homicide.

In addition to witness testimony, prosecutors showed the jury several pictures of the deceased baby taken by police in the basement after the bag the baby was in was removed from the garbage can. They also watched video captured on police-worn body cameras that showed the initial call to the home on Eggert and then the return call after emergency responders were sent back.

When paramedics and police first arrived at the residence, Wright was on the toilet in a first-floor bathroom. A man appearing to be her boyfriend was with her.

He told police and paramedics that Wright may have had a miscarriage.

Wright answered questions from paramedics. She told them she typically had a normal menstrual cycle, Kelley said. When asked when she last menstruated, Wright told paramedics she didn’t know.

Kelley described Wright’s demeanor as anxious and reluctant to go to the hospital. Wright eventually was persuaded to go, she said.

While at the home, Wright did not tell paramedics that she had a miscarriage, delivered a baby or delivered a stillborn baby, Kelley said.

When emergency responders left the Eggert Road address, they considered the situation to have been handled with nothing criminal at play, said Garrett Sokolowski, who was one of the Town of Tonawanda officers at the scene.

When they returned to the house, one of the men who had been at the address when emergency responders showed up initially told them there was a trail of blood leading down the stairs into the basement.

Sokolowski entered the home and began to search in the kitchen. Kelley went downstairs to the basement.

A short time, later she called out to the rest of those inside: “It’s down here.”

She said she couldn’t see the baby when she first opened the lid of the garbage can. There was fluid in the garbage can around a sealed bag.

“I opened the bag and I saw a baby,” Kelley said.

She could see the top of the head and shoulders. There wasn’t any sign of life.

She didn’t render any aid, she told the jury. Then, she wiped away a tear.

Dr. Hope Woodroffe, a physician who treated Wright at the hospital, testified she went into the situation thinking Wright suffered a miscarriage.

But that changed upon examining Wright, whose abdomen indicated her uterus was relatively large, Woodroffe said. The thickness of the umbilical cord also indicated “she had been much farther along in pregnancy than I initially thought,” she said.

“It made me immediately concerned that she had delivered a baby who was alive somewhere or there was a baby somewhere that maybe needed help,” Woodroffe said.

That’s when she asked Wright if she had a baby.

“She said, ‘Something came out of me,’” Woodroffe said.

The patient said it wasn’t moving.

What had she done with it?

“She said, ‘I put it in the trash,’” Woodroffe told jurors.

While at the hospital, Wright also tested positive for cocaine and opiates, the doctor said. Upon cross-examination, Woodroffe said cocaine is commonly laced with opiates.

The defense is expected to call an expert witness next week to testify about her different conclusion that the baby was stillborn.

Prosecutors charged Wright under two theories of the crime: that she intentionally killed the baby and that she showed a “depraved indifference to human life.”

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