OGDEN — An Ogden woman who confessed that she killed one of her infant children because twins were "too much," pleaded guilty Thursday.
Jewell Hendricks, 27, pleaded guilty to murder, a first-degree felony, in 2nd District Court. In exchange, a misdemeanor child abuse charge was dismissed.
It was the fifth disposition hearing scheduled in the case as prosecutors and defense attorneys tried to work out a plea agreement for the woman who smothered her 2-month-old son, Robert, on Jan. 24, 2010.
As part of the agreement, prosecutors will write the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole and recommend that the woman only be required to serve 15 years of the anticipated 15-years-to-life sentence, according to court records.
Police officers previously testified that the mother told them "having twins was too much to handle and explained that she loved (the other twin) more … and it was her intent to have a better life and kill Robert."
Defense attorney Ryan Bushell told the Deseret News Thursday that he did not want to put his client through a trial — even if he did have lingering questions about Hendrick's understanding when she gave her confession.
"We sat down and decided a trial was not in her best interest," he said. "I don’t think she could mentally, emotionally, physically handle the rigors of a one- or two-week trial."
He said he had hoped for a reduced manslaughter charge, but prosecutors only agreed to make the 15-year prison recommendation to the board of pardons.
"It's a long time," Bushell said. "But it's better than the alternative."
The child abuse charge stemmed from allegations that the woman apparently pinched and grabbed Robert's twin brother, Daniel, to the point that the child had bruises.
Bushell said the boy was later adopted after Hendricks and their husband signed away their parental rights.
There were questions as to the woman's mental state early in court proceedings, prompting defense attorneys to ask for a mental competency review. Hendricks was ultimately found competent to proceed toward trial, but her attorney said she comprehends more at the level of a young teenager.
"Jewell, honestly, isn't functioning on a 27-year-old's level," Bushell said.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 9.
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