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Wall woman held in abandonment case

| Friday, March 8, 2013, 5:16 a.m.

Jennifer Cutruzzula says she is sorry for abandoning her 8-month-old daughter in a wooded area of Wall on a rainy night last month.

“I went back and tried to help my baby,” Cutruzzula, 24, told reporters on Thursday as she entered a North Versailles Township courtroom for a preliminary hearing.

Magisterial District Judge Robert L. Barner held Cutruzzula for trial on all counts and scheduled a formal arraignment for April 24 at 1 p.m. at the county courthouse.

“She left the baby out there to die,” Allegheny County assistant district attorney Brian Catanzarite argued as he added a charge of criminal attempt-homicide to counts of endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person.

“The prima facie (case) has not been established,” public defender Hannah Akintoye retorted at the hearing, where an East McKeesport police officer and another witness testified.

Akintoye said there was no evidence that “ongoing conduct” is endangering the child.

Andrew Wiser testified that on Feb. 27 he “noticed someone walking in the woods where no one usually walks up at all” and carrying what he thought was a package along Irwin Street in Wall.

He discovered it was a baby when he went to investigate, he said.

“I picked up the baby and I walked back down the hill,” Wiser said. “I gave the baby to my mother and she dried her off and put a blanket on her.”

Wiser's mother was in the courtroom but was not called to testify. East McKeesport police Officer Scott Lowden said Wiser, Wiser's mother and other neighbors were at the scene when Lowden arrived.

He saw Cutruzzula running down the hill “saying she had fallen and was trying to get some help.”

Lowden said that, except for her shoes, there was no mud on her.

In comments prior to the hearing, Cutruzzula acknowledged problems with relatives.

“She more or less said she was living with her mother and with her mother's boyfriend,” Lowden testified during the hearing.

The officer quoted Cutruzzula as saying she was moving in with a boyfriend “due to the harassment she was getting at home,” and that she wanted a fresh start “without the child.”

Two people identified as relatives of Cutruzzula were at Barner's court prior to the hearing, but declined comment.

“A lot of family members made fun of me,” Cutruzzula said. “If they had been there more, this wouldn't have happened.”

Barner returned Cutruzzula to the county jail, refusing Akintoye's plea to lower her $50,000 bond.

He also accepted Cutruzzula's guilty plea to retail theft charges for a Nov. 7 incident at the North Versailles Walmart. She had been scheduled to face a summary trial next week.

She earlier had gone before Barner to plead guilty to charges filed Nov. 2 for retail theft at the same store.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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