LOS ANGELES – A Montana woman whose newborn son was found dead in a trash bin near the University of Southern California pleaded no contest to child endangerment Tuesday after four attempts to charge her with murder were dismissed.
Holly Ashcraft, 23, of Billings, entered the plea in Superior Court to the charge and a special allegation that the endangerment resulted in death.
Under a plea agreement, she will be sentenced June 27 to time already served — about 30 days of jail time and about 695 days of electronic monitoring. She also will be placed on five years of probation, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
Judge Kathleen Kennedy warned Ashcraft she could face up to 10 years in prison if she violates probation.
It was “a fair ending to a tragic situation,” said her attorney, Mark Geragos.
“Holly wants to put this matter behind her and continue with her studies and her career,” he said in a statement.
A homeless man said he found the dead baby on Oct. 10, 2005, in a cardboard box in a trash bin behind a restaurant-bar that was a popular hangout for students at USC, where Ashcraft was studying architecture.
DNA testing showed the child was Ashcraft’s. A coroner’s investigation determined the infant was born alive and died from prematurity and other, unspecified factors.
The defense argued the child might have been stillborn.
The district attorney’s office filed murder charges against Ashcraft but they were dismissed four times.
Ashcraft was in her third-year at USC and on scholarship at the time of her arrest. She was suspended by the university pending the outcome of the case.
In April 2004, Ashcraft went to a Los Angeles hospital because she was bleeding, and doctors determined she had given birth. She said she had given birth to a stillborn child but no body was found and she was not arrested.
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