Woman accused of keeping baby in bag to stand trial

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Redford Township — A Wyandotte woman accused of placing her newborn son in a plastic bag in her office desk earlier this year was bound over for trial Monday on murder and child abuse charges.

Kimberly Pappas, 26, is charged with felony murder, premeditated murder and first-degree child abuse in the March 31 death of her baby boy, born into a toilet at her Redford Township workplace.

Judge Karen Khalil’s ruling came after a morning of testimony by the medical examiner, two officers and the woman’s sister, who testified about watching Pappas black out at her desk after the birth.

“She was really pale, she had no color to her. That’s when she started blacking out,” said Cassandra Pappas, 24. “She started going back in her seat and her head was going back. She was pale white.”

The sisters worked together at CEVA Logistics on the 24400 block of Glendale in Redford Township, where Kimberly Pappas was a temporary employee.

Prosecutors say the defendant gave birth in the office bathroom. She then allegedly sealed the newborn inside a plastic grocery bag and placed it in a tote bag in her desk drawer.

She bagged the baby and placenta separately, Redford fire department Lt. Frank Arbour said during testimony Monday.

“It just struck me as unusual that everything was bagged, separately,” Arbour said. “You don’t normally see that.”

Cassandra Pappas said she suspected her sister was pregnant before the workplace delivery, but Pappas denied it.

“She just said she was gaining weight,” Cassandra Pappas said.

Kimberly Pappas never purchased baby items for the family’s home and did not discuss her options, like abortion or adoption, her sister said.

The women arrived at work March 31 around 9:15 a.m., Cassandra Pappas testified. Kimberly Pappas headed directly toward the bathroom while Cassandra Pappas began her workday.

About one hour later, Kimberly Pappas texted her sister to request she bring a change of clothes into the office bathroom, Cassandra Pappas testified.

“She said she had an accident,” Cassandra Pappas said.

Arbour also testified Monday about Pappas’ explanation.

“She said she was embarrassed that she had had a heavy period and she didn’t want to go to the hospital,” he said.

Pappas “appeared to be shocky and slow to respond,” Arbour said. “She was very ashen. ... She was cool when you touched her.”

Pappas initially denied giving birth when questioned at her desk, Arbour said. She then was taken to a waiting ambulance.

“At that time, she just kind of looked over and said, ‘Well, maybe I did have a baby and miscarried,’” Arbour said.

Detective Sgt. Kevin Crittenden testified about two interviews he conducted March 31 and April 1 at Garden City Hospital, during which Pappas told him she wasn’t expecting to give birth when she went to the bathroom.

“She stated that she had been at work, that she had thought she was constipated,” he said.

After giving birth, Pappas cut the umbilical cord with a nail clipper from her purse, Crittenden said.

Pappas realized she was pregnant around Christmas, and felt the baby move through the date of delivery, Crittenden said.

The detective also said Pappas indicated she knew about Michigan’s Safe Haven law.

Dr. Chantel Njiwaji, with the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office, testified at length Monday about an autopsy performed on the newborn.

The full-term, 8.3-pound baby was born alive, she said. He was 19 inches long. The cause of death was asphyxiation.

“In my opinion, the child was alive at least for several minutes after birth,” Njiwaji said. The medical examiner’s office previously said the newborn lived 20 to 30 minutes after birth.

Defense attorneys Monday questioned Njiwaji on her methods of determining the baby was born alive, including the use of a lung float test that shows if air was taken into the organ.

Njiwaji admitted CPR efforts could have forced air into the baby’s lungs after death, resulting in a false positive.

But the presence of “acute inflammatory cells” in the lungs indicates the baby lived after his birth, she said.

Also, a “significant amount of fluid” in the lung tissue and a large bruise on the back of the newborn’s head both point toward homicide, Njiwaji said.

“That’s what I have,” she said. “And that’s abnormal.”

Defense attorneys Monday called the matter “a complicated case” and argued for an involuntary manslaughter charge in the death, highlighting testimony that Pappas appeared pale and in shock directly following the birth.

There was no intent to harm or kill the newborn, they said.

Pappas lost a significant amount of blood, which may have contributed to her state of mind, defense attorneys said. Additionally, they argued the text to Pappas’ sister requesting new clothing shows the woman was not prepared to give birth that day.

The birth happened within 45 minutes and the baby may have been born “flaccid,” a medical term meaning it was not moving, defense attorneys said, arguing that could have led their client to believe the baby was stillborn.

“That gave us all of our arguments that we needed today,” attorney Raymond Cassar said after the hearing. “We’re disappointed, but we know at the preliminary examination stage it’s a lower burden of proof.”

Pappas is next due in 3rd Circuit Court on Aug. 31.

“Then we can start discussing this case with the prosecutor’s office, to see if there might be some sort of a resolution short of trial,” Cassar said. “But I don’t know where it’s going at this point in time.”

Pappas previously was found criminally responsible and mentally competent to face charges.


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