Cassidy Goodson, Lakeland teen who strangled her newborn, gets 18 months in plea deal

5:55 PM, Dec 19, 2012   |    comments
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Video: Lakeland teen who strangled her newborn gets 18 months

 

Bartow, Florida -- Eighteen months for murdering her infant son.

That's the sentence Wednesday for the Lakeland teenager who hid her pregnancy and then choked her newborn son to death in September. If she plays her cards right, Cassidy Goodson could be out in time to graduate from High school.

It's a rare case where everyone seemed to be in agreement.

The facts of the case are horrible: a newborn's life taken violently. But had Cassidy been convicted of murder and sent to prison, prosecutors, her defense attorney and ultimately the judge all agreed it would simply have been a second life lost.

See Also: Should teen accused of killing newborn been identified?

They all say that in this case, Cassidy, now 15, deserved a second chance.

Cassidy went into labor on September 19 in a bathroom at her home, took a pair of scissors to "pry the baby out," and delivered the child alive and into the toilet.

Investigators say Cassidy lifted the moving infant from the toilet, felt for a pulse, found one, then placed her hands around the infant's neck and squeezed until he wasn't moving or breathing any longer. She took the infant's pulse again and found none.

Detectives add that Cassidy cleaned up the bathroom, bathed herself and the dead infant before placing him in a shoebox along with soiled towels and clothing.

The girl's mother did take her to Lakeland Regional Medical Center that day after seeing a mess in the bathroom, and the teen claimed she miscarried.

The mother found the baby's body in a shoebox three days later. The baby was a full term, 9.5 pound boy. Cassidy weighs 100 lbs.

Cassidy said she hid the pregnancy from her parents, but family members had told her mother they thought the teen may be pregnant. 

She was arrested for first degree murder, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter.

With the teenager's family looking on, Judge Donald Jacobsen said he was satisfied that Cassidy -- a student with no criminal past -- was unlikely to pose a threat to anyone else.

He said she was "immature" and on Wednesday sentenced Cassidy to at least 18 months in a maximum security facility for juveniles. It'll most likely be the Hillsborough Girls Academy.

"Everybody cared about a young girl who had never been in any trouble before in her life and has a tremendous amount of potential... and no one wanted to throw that potential away," said Howardene Garrett, Cassidy's defense lawyer.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd -- whose department first investigated the case and recorded Cassidy's chilling re-enactment and confession -- agreed with the decision to reach a plea deal, but withheld comment on the length of the sentence.

"The murderer is 14, and so there has to be a penalty to pay. There has to be. But the challenge is to make sure that she's not back in the criminal justice system for something else, because there won't be another chance," said Sheriff Judd.

If Cassidy completes her program without incident, she'll appear before the judge again in 18 months. At that time, she could be placed on probation and set free.

However, if she violates the terms of her release, she could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison as an adult.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Cassidy's grandfather, Richard Goodson said he wanted to thank the community for its prayers.

"She's a good girl," he said. "She just made a terrible mistake."

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