Teen mom agrees to plea deal in death of newborn

The mother of a newborn baby found dead inside a garbage bin at a south Medford hotel in August has been sentenced to two years' probation and 80 hours of community service, under a plea bargain reached Friday.

Denise L. Flanary, 19, of Medford, looked exhausted with dark circles under her eyes as she stood before Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Tim Barnack Friday and changed her plea from not guilty to guilty of felony abuse of a corpse.

The state dropped a second charge of concealing the birth of an infant.

"All of the evidence seems to confirm you did not try to kill this child," Barnack said. "You tried to save this child."

Flanary told investigators that her infant girl was born dead with an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck at Flanary's home where Flanary lives with her mother, said Prosecutor David Hoppe. She attempted to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the baby, but the baby was already dead, Hoppe said.

Autopsy results were consistent with Flanary's story, he said. The baby had air in her lungs, marks on her neck where the umbilical cord likely was wound and bruises on her chest, the autopsy showed.

Flanary also passed a polygraph test of her account, Hoppe said.

"We felt this was a just resolution," Hoppe said. "It's clear her intention was not to harm her own child. In fact, she did what she could to resuscitate the child."

But, Hoppe added, the way she disposed of the body was "abhorrent."

"She realizes she has to pay a price for having done so," he said.

Flanary initially denied that she was the mother of the baby whose body was found in a trash bin at the Holiday Inn Express on South Pacific Highway in Medford. But she later agreed to cooperate with investigators.

Flanary apparently planned on putting the baby up for adoption if the child had been born alive, said Flanary's attorney, Peter Gorn, of Southern Oregon Public Defenders. She had informed the baby's father of her pregnancy, but he told her he wasn't interested in being involved in the baby's life, Gorn said.

Gorn said probation could be good for Flanary, helping her accomplish her goals of graduating from high school and then going on to college.

Flanary is four credits short of graduating from high school and plans to attend Rogue Community College to earn her GED, he said.

"Probation requires that she goes to school or works," Gorn said. "I think this will be a good motivator."

Flanary also will be required to undergo a mental-health evaluation and participate in any mental-health counseling that her probation officer recommends.

Barnack encouraged her to welcome counseling as a way to cope with the loss of her child and to move on from her difficult childhood. Gorn said both of Flanary's parents were addicted to drugs during her childhood, which may have affected her ability to communicate. They have been clean for several years, he said.

If Flanary follows the terms of her probation, the felony charge will be downgraded to a misdemeanor on her record, Barnack said.

Hoppe said that if Flanary had not cooperated and provided an explanation for the baby's death, she likely would have faced a charge of second-degree manslaughter because of the air in the baby's lungs.

"It would have been hard to explain that away after the fact," Hoppe said. "She essentially talked her way out of a homicide charge."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.

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