Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 31, 2013

Newsmakers: Teen charged in infant death

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — EDITOR’S NOTE: Newsmakers 2013 profiles people, places and events that made news in the Grand Traverse region during the past year.

BEULAH — An Illinois teenager who gave birth at a Benzie County campsite stands accused of murder after her newborn died hours later.

Alyce Morales, 18, of Cicero, Ill., remains in Benzie County’s jail awaiting trial in 19th Circuit Court on a felony count of open murder. On July 22, she was vacationing with her parents in Platte River Campground when she gave birth to a daughter, Marie, in a tent.

The infant died a day later in Munson Medical Center. Benzie County Prosecutor Sara Swanson charged Morales after authorities said serious injuries caused the newborn’s death.

But defense attorney Jesse Williams quickly raised questions about the allegations detailed in court documents, including the cause of death and that Morales’ parents weren’t aware of her pregnancy. He declined to comment on specifics, but said both sides are discussing the case.

“I think everyone is working together for a resolution that’s just and fair under the circumstances,” he said. “I don’t think anyone truly knows what happened.”

Court documents state on July 22 that Morales felt ill and retreated to a tent where she gave birth alone. Her mother found Morales with the infant and summoned an ambulance that transported both to Munson Medical Center.

Doctors initially suspected the infant’s cause of death was hypothermia and lack of prompt medical care, but a forensic autopsy raised suspicions, the documents state. A preliminary hearing in 85th District Court lasted several days as both the prosecution and defense awaited a doctor’s crucial testimony.

A Grand Rapids doctor testified during the final day that an autopsy showed Marie died from blunt force trauma to her head and a laceration to her liver, Swanson said. A probable cause affidavit states Morales admitted she “freaked out” and struck the infant, but Williams previously said this was “misconstrued.”

Swanson said questions about whether Morales’ parents knew about the pregnancy don’t have much bearing on the case.

“From my perspective, it doesn’t really change anything,” Swanson said. “But we haven’t got any new information because the parents aren’t talking to us anymore.”

Morales remains without bond in Benzie County’s jail. No trial date has been scheduled, but Swanson said a final status conference before trial is scheduled for Jan. 22.