Beecroft found guilty of second-degree murder


Nicole Beecroft

Former Tartan student no longer faces life in prison without parole

After a retrial that began in July, Nicole Beecroft, 24, of Oakdale was found guilty last week of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of her newborn daughter.

Beecroft waived her right to a jury trial, instead opting for Washington County Chief Judge John Hoffman to hear the case. In criminal cases, a judge generally has seven days after closing arguments to issue a verdict, but Beecroft waived her right to that seven-day verdict and told the judge he could have as much time as he needed to make a decision.

Hoffman spent more than two months crafting the verdict, which he issued on Friday, Sept. 27.

“The State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that ... Beecroft committed each and every element of Second Degree Murder,” the verdict reads.

Beecroft was accused of stabbing her newborn girl more than 100 times after she gave birth alone in the basement of her mother’s Oakdale home in April 2007. The infant’s body was found with multiple stab wounds in a trash can outside the home.

The Tartan High School senior was 17 at the time and had been hiding the pregnancy from family and friends.

Life-without-parole sentence reversed

Beecroft was initially tried as an adult and found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and received a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole in 2008. It was the most severe penalty ever given to a teen mother in Minnesota for killing her newborn.

The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed that conviction last year after questions were raised as to whether medical examiners had been pressured not to testify in her defense during that first trial.

Also last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for those age 17 and younger were unconstitutional, as they ran counter to protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

During the retrial, the attorneys’ main focus was proving whether or not the baby had been born alive. Expert witnesses for the prosecution argued there was evidence that the baby had taken at least one breath and was alive prior to the stabbing, but medical examiners for the defense said all the evidence pointed to a stillbirth.

Possible sentencing departure

Because of Beecroft’s clean criminal background, the sentencing guidelines call for a maximum sentence of 30 years.

However, the Washington County attorney’s office has requested an upwards departure from sentencing guidelines, which means Beecroft could be given more time if aggravating factors are found. These factors include the vulnerability of the newborn and that the newborn was treated with “particular cruelty.”

Beecroft will be given credit for the six years she has served since she was arrested in 2007. She is incarcerated at the state correctional facility for women in Shakopee.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.
 

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