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Mother Sentenced for Baby Death

September 15, 1998

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A 22-year-old woman who secretly gave birth in a bathroom, let the child die and then stashed the body in a dresser was ordered Monday into a halfway house for one year.

Heidi Sonnenberg could have been sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison, but the judge said therapy was a better alternative.

``It’s been very, very difficult for me to decide just what to do with you,″ Judge Dennis Fuchs told Sonnenberg, who at one point tried to speak but was too choked up. ``I’ve struggled with how to balance punishment with the therapy you so obviously need.″

At the halfway house, Sonnenberg is to undergo a one-year therapy program for women who abuse children.

Sonnenberg pleaded guilty in July to felony child abuse homicide in the death of the baby, who was born at her parents’ home in January. Sonnenberg’s mother found the body of the baby girl 10 days later in a dresser drawer.

Sonnenberg, whose grandfather held a position of leadership in the Mormon church, had managed to hide her pregnancy by wearing baggy clothes. Her lawyer, Earl Xiaz, said Sonnenberg was clinically depressed and suffered from a disorder which led her to deny she was pregnant and disregard the baby when she was born.

An autopsy showed the infant died from blocked air passages and lost too much blood after her umbilical cord was severed with nail clippers.

``It is obvious to the court that the baby had a good chance of survival,″ Fuchs said.

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