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Allentown woman admits killing baby in pub restroom

| Saturday, March 29, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

An Allentown woman admitted on Friday to killing her newborn after secretly giving birth in a pub restroom, under a plea agreement that allowed her to escape a potential death sentence.

Amanda C. Hein pleaded guilty to a murder charge, but a Northampton County jury will have to decide if she acted with premeditation when she left the boy in a plastic bag in the tank of a toilet — a question that will determine whether the 27-year-old Hein can ever hope to be released from prison.

Under the bargain, a yet-to-be-selected jury will have two options when it considers Hein's fate next month: first-degree murder, bringing an automatic sentence of life without parole, or third-degree murder, which brings at most 20 to 40 years.

In exchange, District Attorney John Morganelli dropped his bid to seek the execution of Hein, who had faced capital murder charges for killing the child after delivering him in a restroom stall of Starters Pub in Lower Saucon Township, then returning to her friends and bleeding while watching the hourlong conclusion of a pay-per-view wrestling tournament for which they had come.

Hein, who told Judge Paula Roscioli that she is on three medications for major depression, stood impassively in a red prison jumpsuit as she acknowledged taking the life of a baby that barely had one. When Morganelli described how the infant's body was discovered in August by a cleaning crew after a toilet wouldn't flush, Hein took a deep breath and bit her lower lip but otherwise showed no outward emotion.

Hein's lead attorney, Michael Corriere, said his client agrees that her conduct caused the death of the newborn whose only name, at least publicly, was that given by county Coroner Zachary Lysek: “Baby Boy Hein.”

“Do you admit those facts?” Roscioli asked Hein.

“Yes,” Hein said.

First-degree murder is a premeditated killing, though intent can be formed in a fraction of a second under the law. Third-degree murder is a catchall charge for a killing that involves “malice,” a willful disregard of the risk one's actions are creating. But it is as much defined by what it is not.

Under the crimes code, it is “all other kinds of murder” beyond first-degree, which requires premeditation, and second-degree, which is committed in commission of a felony.

Hein's defense team has highlighted mental-health problems of hers, saying in a legal filing in January that they intend to call medical experts to testify on her behalf. Hein suffers from depression, self-mutilation, suicidal thoughts, bipolar disorder and attention hyperactivity disorder, according to the paperwork.

Jury selection in her degree-of-guilt trial is scheduled to begin April 7.

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