ELKO – A Spring Creek woman who gave birth in her home and allegedly placed the baby in a trash bag, telling authorities she believed the baby to be dead, is on trial this week in Elko District Court.
Nikki M. Shelley, 23, is charged with one count of child abuse or neglect, a category B felony, and could receive up to six years in prison.
District Attorney Mark Mills and Deputy Defense Attorney Benjamin Gaumond presented opening arguments to the jury Wednesday before Judge Al Kacin.
Mills explained that Shelley had not revealed she was pregnant to her family only telling her best friend, Whitney Ellingson. Shelley expressed doubts to Ellingson about being able to raise a second child after already giving birth to a boy two years before.
“The defendant had another child already, a 2- or 3-year-old toddler boy,” Mills said. “She made a statement to her friend, quote: ‘I already have one child and I’m not fit to take care of another child right now.’”
Mills said Shelley made earlier statements to Ellingson about getting an abortion.
On the afternoon of May 18, 2016, Shelley contacted Ellingson, who arrived to find Shelley on the floor of her garage, but she didn’t see the baby.
Ellingson was told by Shelley that the baby was in the trunk of a car parked in the garage, wrapped in towels and placed in a white kitchen trash bag, Mills said.
Ellingson was also asked by Shelley not to call 911, Mills added.
Shelley was driven to Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital, where she made statements to medical staff about having had a miscarriage, Mills said.
It wasn’t until almost an hour later that Shelley’s grandmother learned the baby was in the trunk and brought her in to the emergency room, announcing the baby was alive, Mills said.
“The nurse gave her [grandmother] some gloves and a bowl to go out and recover what they thought was a miscarriage based on the way [it was] described what happened,” Mills said.
The baby “weighed at 6.2 lbs. was 18 ½ inches [long] and was estimated by hospital staff to be 38 to 39 weeks along and was considered by medical staff to be a full-term baby,” Mills said.
The defendant told nurses that she thought she had a miscarriage, saying that “she passed some gooey stuff and didn’t know how far along she was…and never brought it to anyone’s attention or informed nurses that there was a baby or what she believed to be a miscarriage in the trunk,” said Mills.
Attended by an OB nurse, the baby was found to have a normal heart rate, breathing within normal limits and making sounds, said Mills, which was recorded by a sheriff’s deputy’s body camera.
From the time Shelley arrived at NNRH to when the baby was discovered was about an hour, said Mills. The baby was flown to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City for further care.
Mills told jurors that Dr. Brooks Keeshin, who evaluated the baby at Primary Children’s, would testify during the trial to his opinion that he believes the baby “would have appeared normal at birth, moving and breathing shortly after delivery…and could not have appeared dead with no obvious breathing for a significant period of time.”
In his opening statement, Deputy Public Defender Benjamin Gaumond told jurors that the incident was “a mistake” and Shelley “mistakenly thought her baby was dead.”
On May 18, Shelley “was at her residence all alone, [and] without any medical assistance whatsoever, she gives birth in the bathroom,” said Gaumond. Shelley thought that water from the shower would revive the baby, “but it doesn’t work,” Gaumond said.
Gaumond said Shelley was cooperative with investigators, adding that NNRH staff did not ask the whereabouts of the baby.
Among the defense’s witnesses, Dr. John Glavinovich, an emergency room physician from Tustin, Californa, certified in neonatal resuscitation, evaluated the baby’s and Shelley’s medical records and Keeshin’s findings, said Gaumond.
“He’s going to disagree with Dr. Keeshin’s conclusion that with a degree of medical certainty the baby would not have appeared deceased to Ms. Shelley,” said Gaumond. “He’s going to further and say most likely that [the baby] would have appeared unresponsive to Ms. Shelley upon her birth.”
“I’m going be asking all of you to hold Nikki Marie Shelley not guilty,” Gaumond said.
The trial is scheduled to continue through the week.