WEST PALM BEACH, Florida — A woman who left her newborn baby in a garbage can pleaded guilty to attempted murder and child abuse and agreed to seven years in prison and possible deportation.
Two maintenance workers at an apartment complex in Boca Raton heard faint cries from the trash and rescue Rafaelle Sousa’s 6-pound 8-ounce baby. She was taken in by her boyfriend, who named her Sarah, the Palm Beach Post reported.
Sousa’s lawyer says the 38-year-old Brazilian woman did not know she was pregnant until she gave birth, and was in shock when the baby was born three years ago.
“People look at her and think they see this monster,” attorney J. Samantha Vacciana said outside the courtroom. “What they’re looking at is someone who has had a severe traumatic experience that left them with an even more severe mental breakdown.”
Sousa, who was already caring for her 3-year-old son, had taken Tylenol and diet pills in the month before the birth to cope with the pain and sudden weight gain, but couldn’t afford a doctor’s visit and didn’t know she was expecting another child, said her lawyer.
When the newborn’s head hit the toilet seat, she was blue and not breathing, Vacciana said. Sousa thought the baby was dead, and she quickly lost blood. She put her in a garbage bag and then another bag of garbage and coffee grounds. Police found napkins used to soak up blood, along with receipts that led them to Sousa.
She later told investigators that she came back twice in the next three hours to see if the baby was really dead, but couldn’t get close enough because there were people in the parking lot.
The attorney told the Post that Sousa had only lived in the United States for four years and could not read, write or speak English. She lost custody of both children after her arrest, which breaks her heart, Vacciana said.
Palm Beach County Senior Judge Barry Cohen asked Sousa on Wednesday if she understands that her admission of guilt subjects her to post-prison deportation. Sousa never obtained US citizenship.
“Si,” said Sousa.
Vacciana said she had prepared health professionals to testify if the case went to trial, explaining why de Sousa reacted the way to the birth. But she wasn’t sure jurors would accept the defense.
“Being poor and unsophisticated at times is a crime,” Vacciana said.