Wall woman sentenced to prison for abandoning baby in the woods
A Wall woman who thought she could get a fresh start by leaving her 8-month-old daughter in the woods to die will spend the next few months in a mental health facility and cannot see her daughter until 2021, an Allegheny County judge ordered on Monday.
Jennifer Cutruzzula, 25, will serve eight to 16 months in jail, with credit for time served since her Feb. 28, 2013, arrest. Common Pleas Judge Jill E. Rangos said Cutruzzula cannot have contact with her daughter during a probation of 7 1⁄2 years.
“I think it was appropriate,” said Cutruzzula's attorney, Patrick Thomassey. “She has suffered from some really serious mental health issues over the years.”
Thomassey said doctors diagnosed her with schizophrenia.
“It's an unrecognized problem in our society,” Thomassey said.
Cutruzzula pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child and recklessly endangering another person. Prosecutors dropped a count of attempted homicide. Her family could not be reached.
Police said Cutruzzula carried her daughter into a wooded area and left her on a muddy hillside with a bottle of milk. It was raining that day, with temperatures in the upper-30s, police said.
Neighbors found the baby wearing a one-piece outfit and crawling along on her stomach, police said. She was evaluated at Children's Hospital and was placed in the custody of Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families.
Now 20 months old, the child is living with her biological father. Thomassey said Cutruzzula can see her daughter before her probation ends, but only with a court order.
How Cutruzzula's daughter will fare depends on a variety of factors, said Joshua Bernstein, an assistant professor of psychology and counseling at Carlow University, but a loving adult will help.
“If she's in the custody of her father, then I guess we would hope she will benefit from a positive attachment relationship,” Bernstein said. “You have to imagine the court had a good reason to impose this kind of ruling. Pennsylvania courts tend to be very conscious of the child's development, and I can only imagine that the decision was predicated on the best interest of the child being advanced.”
Adam Brandolph is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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