By SCOTT NORTH
A Snohomish County jury began Tuesday trying to decide whether the death of a newborn in Everett was an intentional murder, a reckless mistake or a terrible accident.
Jurors deliberated for much of the afternoon regarding the case of Svetlana V. Andrusiv, 19, who went on trial last week. She’s charged with second-degree murder in the death of her daughter. Jurors were scheduled to resume their deliberations this morning.
Prosecutors allege that Andrusiv, a refugee from Ukraine, hid her pregnancy and then squeezed the life out of her newborn on Aug. 20 because she didn’t want to be a parent. Andrusiv’s attorneys counter that the death was unintentional, and that the young woman gave birth, alone in the bathroom of a north Everett home, thinking she was having a miscarriage.
Andrusiv was ignorant and foolish but there is no evidence that her daughter’s death was anything but a tragedy, one of her attorneys, public defender Susan Gaer, said in closing arguments.
"Do not increase this tragedy," she urged jurors. "Let Svetlana go home."
Deputy prosecutor Paul Stern said the law requires jurors not to let sympathy for the young woman, or the unpleasant nature of the allegations, stand in the way of justice.
"You can’t convince yourself, because you don’t like it, that it is not true," he said.
An autopsy showed the child died from crushing force to her abdomen, which snapped her ribs like twigs and caused cuts on her liver and a lung. All of the baby’s ribs were separated from her spine, and she lost roughly one-fourth of her blood to internal bleeding.
Prosecutors brought in doctors who are experts in child abuse. They testified the injuries were consistent with somebody squeezing the child to death. The defense countered with testimony from Andrusiv that she had attempted – poorly – to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the girl, who was born headfirst into a toilet.
Jurors have been given a number of options in the case. To convict Andrusiv as charged, they must unanimously agree she intentionally harmed her child. If the jury doesn’t convict on murder, it may consider the lesser offenses of first- or second-degree manslaughter. The jury would have to rule Andrusiv acted recklessly or was criminally negligent to convict on manslaughter.
The jury also was instructed that it may find the death an excusable homicide if members believe the baby died in an accident or misfortune that wasn’t the result of an illegal act.
Lawyers on both sides tried to discredit their opponent’s theory of the case, not even finding agreement on the child’s identity. Prosecutors referred to the girl by her official name, Baby Girl Andrusiv, pointing out repeatedly that she lived so briefly she didn’t even have a name. Gaer reminded jurors of Andrusiv’s testimony late in the case, about how she named the baby Elizabeth Michelle, days after the child’s death.
Gaer charged prosecutors with offering "pure fantasy" in suggesting that Andrusiv had lied and told inconsistent stories about the birth. There was ample evidence to support the young woman’s contention she did not know she was pregnant and carrying a full-term baby when she went into labor, Gaer said.
"Pregnancies are different," she said. "People’s bodies are different. Svetlana Andrusiv’s didn’t give her enough notice."
Deputy prosecutor Janice Albert said Andrusiv killed because her newborn stood in the way of her plans and dreams.
"She had a new life waiting for her here, and she wasn’t going to let this new life take it away from her," Albert said.
You can call Herald Writer Scott North at 425-339-3431or send e-mail to