Woman studying to be nun charged in baby’s death

WASHINGTON — A woman from Samoa studying to become a Catholic nun has been charged in the District of Columbia with smothering her newborn son, police said.

The woman, 26-year-old Sosefina Amoa, gave birth to the boy Oct. 10 in her room at the Little Sisters of the Poor convent, police said. Afraid the nuns would hear the newborn’s cries and discover she lied about sexual activity, police say Amoa told investigators she smothered him by placing a wool garment over the child’s mouth and nose and applying pressure.

A day later she and a nun took his body, in a small black luggage bag, to a hospital, police said. Investigators say they found bloody clothing and small traces of blood during a search of the convent room where Amoa had been staying.

Amoa was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder after the death was ruled a homicide by asphyxiation. She was ordered to remain jailed Friday while under suicide watch.

Her public defender declined to comment on the case Friday.

The religious order said in a statement that it was praying for everyone involved.

“We all feel that this is a tragic situation,” said Sister Constance Veit, communications director at Little Sisters of the Poor, an international congregation of Roman Catholic women that serves the elderly poor.

In Washington, the order maintains apartments and residential and nursing facility rooms on a 7-acre property near Catholic University.

Amoa arrived from the island of Samoa on Oct. 5 and was considered a postulant, someone who wants to be admitted to the order.

She told a detective who interviewed her at the hospital that she did not know that she was pregnant and assumed that the significant bleeding she experienced just before giving birth was part of her menstrual cycle, according to court records.

But when she was interviewed again several days later, police say, she admitted to not having told the convent about her past sexual activity and said that she had not known what to do after delivering her son — whom she named Joseph.

She said she placed the wool garment on his nose and mouth to prevent him from crying, and after the child stopped breathing, contemplated putting the body in the trash but decided against it, police say.

Police say they interviewed a nun at the convent who said Amoa showed her the child and initially told her that she had found the body outside. The nun, who is unidentified in court papers, told police that Amoa later told her that she had given birth to the baby and that the two of them together took the body to the hospital.

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