Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 18, 2013

More details sought in Benzie infant death case

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — BEULAH — A judge pushed back a court appearance for an Illinois teenager accused of slaying her newborn in a Benzie County campsite.

Alyce Morales, 19, of Cicero, Ill., faces one count of felony open murder and is scheduled for a preliminary exam on Sept. 5. Eighty-fifth District Court Judge Nancy Kida adjourned the case for 28 days to allow more investigation into the July 23 death of Morales' newborn, Marie.

"We're just continuing to investigate to figure out exactly what happened that day," said Benzie County Prosecutor Sara Swanson. "We want more interviews with witnesses, talk with doctors and possibly psychologists. We have a lot more to prove, including intent."

Morales was camping with her parents in Platte River Campground on July 22 when she gave birth alone in a tent. Authorities said Morales kept her pregnancy secret for fear of disappointing her family, but her defense attorney Jesse Williams said her parents told him otherwise. He disputes several assertions that are listed in a complaint and affidavit filed when Morales was charged.

"People are supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said. "Media and certain law enforcement poisoned the jury pool. We don't even know what happened."

Williams said a statement in a court document that Morales admitted she "freaked out" and struck her child with her fist had been "misconstrued." He said no one has seen the autopsy report and he warned against "speculation" until the documents are made public.

"The only information that we do know is when EMS arrived and did vitals there doesn't seem to be a sense of emergency," he said, elaborating that the ambulance transported the infant to Munson Medical Center in a "non-emergency manner." The child was pronounced dead the next day at 9 a.m.

Swanson said the ambulance report states the vehicle's lights and sirens were on during the trip to the hospital. She acknowledged she hasn't seen the autopsy files but said a Michigan State Police trooper present during the procedure reported the cause of death -- homicide from "serious injuries" to the infant's head and abdomen -- listed in the probable cause document.

"I think we can still get an impartial jury," she said.

Morales is being held in Benzie County's jail on no bond. The charges carry a maximum life sentence.