By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – A judge gave Laura Lynn Hickey thirty years in prison today, for what her attorney said his client viewed as a mercy killing after her approximately 21-weeks-along fetus was unexpectedly delivered into a toilet.
Hickey, 25, admitted she cut off its head with a kitchen knife.
Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt said the case set a new low, but declined to hand down the 80 year sentence the prosecutor asked for.
“In my view, the defendant is only a threat to her own children, and her release will be past her further ability to bear children,” Hunt said.
The Centralia woman had pleaded guilty second-degree murder.
The standard sentencing range for the crime was between about 12 years to 20 years, although because the victim was particularly vulnerable, Hickey could have been locked up for life.
Hickey was about halfway through her pregnancy last March when she gave birth alone in her Centralia trailer home. She told detectives she grabbed the baby from the toilet, saw he was gurgling and trying to take a breath, according to charging documents.
“She indicated to police she couldn’t stand by and watch it suffer, and die,” defense attorney Ken Johnson told the judge this morning.
Johnson noted his client’s state of mind was impaired, and not only from drugs.
Attorneys disagreed if the infant boy was far enough along it could have survived outside the womb.
It weighed .85 pound and was less than 10-inches long, according to the lawyers involved.
Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said the baby “had taken a breath, at least one breath.” Johnson said Dr. William Brady was of the opinion the baby would not have survived.
More than 30 people sat in the Chehalis courtroom this morning, including Hickey’s mother, step-father and other family.
Her grandmother Nancy Wood asked the judge for some leniency.
“Laura’s never been in trouble,” Wood said. “She was a good mother, a good provider, until drugs came into the factor.”
The father of the child, Matthew Emery recommended she serve 10 years.
His written comments to the judge were read aloud; he sat with red-rimmed eyes next to a jail guard in the courtroom. What he is in custody for wasn’t mentioned.
Emery said said he still loves Hickey, but he doesn’t think he will ever understand what she did.
“I forgive you for what have done, and I don’t say this lightly,” Emery wrote.
Prosecutor Meyer said it was a crime so heinous, Hickey should lose the ability to “walk among us.” He described to the judge a variety of excuses by Hickey, saying she did not want the child.
Defense attorney Johnson asked for the low end of the standard sentencing range, saying she is a good candidate for rehabilitation and all he was asking was for a second chance.
Johnson acknowledged calling it a mercy killing is not a defense, but said it was an explanation, if there was an explanation.
“Laura realizes her explanations are totally inadequate,” Johnson said. “She made a mistake and must pay the consequences.”
Hickey addressed Judge Hunt, although she was told she didn’t have to.
She apologized, but said she would accept whatever sentence he gave her. She asked him to give her a second chance at life.
“I’m sorry for what I’ve done, I’m sorry for the baby I never gave a chance,” she said. “I’m sorry for my drug use.”
Then she laid her head down on the defense table, and appeared to cry.
Hickey will also get a mandatory extra two years because the plea agreement included a deadly weapon enhancement.