Trial starts in death of infant

By SCOTT NORTH

Herald Writer

A Snohomish County jury heard starkly different versions Tuesday of what led to the Aug. 20 death of a newborn girl in Everett, a child whose life was so brief she never even had a name.

Baby Girl Andrusiv, as the child is officially known, died in the lethal grip of the young woman who gave birth to her in a bathroom and then literally "squeezed the life out of her" because she didn’t want to be a parent, deputy prosecutor Paul Stern alleged.

Instead of listening to her newborn’s cry, the first sounds Svetlana V. Andrusiv, 19, may have heard from her daughter was the child’s ribs breaking, Stern alleged.

The girl is dead, but not as a result of a deliberate act by Andrusiv, said one of her attorneys, public defender Christine Sanders.

The young woman did not know for sure she was pregnant until she went into labor, and at first thought that she was having a miscarriage, Sanders said. It was only after Andrusiv delivered the 6-pound, 2-ounce baby on her own that she realized the child was full-term, the attorney said.

Andrusiv tried to keep the child alive by doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation and "never intentionally harmed her baby, the baby that looked like her, that was beautiful," Sanders said.

Andrusiv is charged with second-degree murder. Her trial is expected to continue into next week.

In opening statements Tuesday, lawyers on both sides spent considerable time discussing the young woman’s life and background.

Andrusiv was born in Ukraine and arrived in the United States in December 1998, settling first in Massachusetts. She was 17, and embraced the new freedoms and opportunities here, eventually moving with her family to Everett, Stern said.

But there was a problem, jurors were told. Andrusiv had become pregnant before leaving her homeland.

Stern alleged the child stood in the way of Andrusiv’s dreams of going to college and studying to become a fashion designer, so she snuffed out the girl’s life.

"She had traveled across two continents and an ocean to start over, and she had this baby coming," he said.

An autopsy showed the child was squeezed with such force that her ribs were broken and internal organs damaged, injuries that experts will testify are inconsistent with trauma from birth and resuscitative efforts, the prosecutor said.

Sanders urged jurors to view the case in the context of the young woman’s life and missed opportunities that could have spared everyone grief.

"This case is full of ‘if onlys,’" the lawyer said.

Andrusiv was not aware of her pregnancy, and it wasn’t detected despite repeated visits to doctors, including a physical about two months before she gave birth.

Jurors were told the young woman had always had an irregular menstrual cycle and did not suspect that she was pregnant until shortly before the birth. Andrusiv reacted to her fears like many other young adults, trying to ignore the warning signs in hopes the problem would simply go away, Sanders said.

The slender Andrusiv showed little outward signs of her pregnancy, and when she went into labor, her family thought she was simply ill. By the time it was clear that a baby was coming, Andrusiv thought it was a miscarriage, and that she was probably carrying a child conceived with a man she’d met several months after arriving in the United States, Sanders said.

Andrusiv gave birth alone, standing over a toilet. Sanders said the young woman was shocked when she realized that the baby was large and fully formed, and she attempted to revive the child through CPR, although the technique was improperly applied, Sanders said.

Authorities began investigating the case as a suspicious death after aid crews were summoned by Andrusiv’s family and were shown the dead baby in a cardboard box.

If convicted of second-degree murder, Andrusiv faces anywhere from 10 to 18 years in prison.

You can call Herald Writer Scott North at 425-339-3431or send e-mail to

north@heraldnet.com.

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