GAYLORD — A former Henderson woman who was facing a first-degree murder trial in September for killing her newborn baby more than a decade ago reached a plea deal Wednesday that resulted in an eight-year prison sentence.
Amy Ann Romero, 29, pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree manslaughter. She was arrested in January in Missouri, where she had been living for several years, after Sibley County sheriff’s investigators learned she had left her daughter to die in a woods in April 2001.
Prior to her arrest, a grand jury had indicted Romero for first-degree murder and several other charges.
The plea happened during a Wednesday morning hearing that originally had been set as a scheduling conference before the Sept. 11 trial. Instead, Romero admitted to killing the child and District Court Judge Thomas McCarthy sentenced her to 96 months in prison. With credit for good time and time served, Romero will be released and placed on parole in about five years.
Sentencing guidelines called for a 48-month sentence, but Romero agreed to an upward departure based on the vulnerability of and cruel treatment toward the victim.
Saying he was facing a difficult case, Sibley County Attorney David Schauer opted to accept the plea deal after consulting with investigators. He said the case would been challenging at trial because a body was not recovered and Minnesota law requires Romero’s confession to be corroborated by independent evidence. Schauer also would have been required to show a jury independent facts that could prove a death had occurred.
“The end result is that Ms. Romero did acknowledge her responsibility for the death of the child and will spend a significant time in prison for her actions,” Schauer said in a news release.
Little information was released about how Romero became a murder suspect until her attorney filed a motion to have the charges dismissed because of lack of evidence. McCarthy denied the motion, saying there was enough evidence to show a child had been killed.
A memorandum with McCarthy’s order also revealed information about evidence heard by the grand jury that indicted Romero.
Romero, formerly known as Amy Aune, was living in Missouri a year ago when she told a co-worker about how she had given birth to a girl 10 years ago and left her to die in a woods. Sibley County sheriff’s investigators were sent to Missouri to interview Romero and the other witness.
Romero told investigators she learned she was pregnant in December 2000 while receiving a physical for the Job Corps. She said she decided to hide the pregnancy after learning it was too late for an abortion and because she couldn’t work for the Job Corps if she was pregnant.
In April 2001, Romero went to her parents’ home near Henderson while her family was out of state. She said she gave birth to the girl in the house, then drove the child to a wooded area where she left it in a tree stump to die. Romero said she had hoped the coyotes would get the girl.
Investigators found evidence in Job Corps records that showed Romero was pregnant at that time. Those records also showed Romero lost a lot of weight around the time she gave birth. Other witnesses also told investigators they knew Romero had been pregnant in 2000 and 2001.