Judge, attorneys, and observers all waited in silence for two minutes before Sosefina Amoa’s sentencing Friday. Those two minutes represented how long it took Amoa to suffocate her newborn son to death, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Wright.
Amoa, 26, was sentenced to four years in prison and five years of supervised release, after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in February. Amoa, who is originally from Samoa will also face deportation after her release.
During the sentencing hearing, Defense Attorney Judith Pipe asked the court to allow Amoa to go back to her family in Samoa and asked Judge Robert Morin to rule her sentence as time served.
“Of course this is a case that deserves punishment,” said Pipe, “but she will be punished by it every day of her life.”
Defense attorneys argued that Amoa was not consciously aware of her pregnancy and that in the “panic, shock and terror,” of her painful delivery, smothered her baby.
Prosecutors agree that Amoa was in denial of her pregnancy but said she made “conscious decisions” before and after giving birth to baby Amoa.
Wright said Amoa was “plagued by fear” of getting kicked out of the convent and denied help from one of the sisters when she was experiencing severe abdominal pains. Wright also argued that Amoa chose to have the baby by herself in her room and then lied about the dead baby once she was discovered.
“Of all the safest places for a pregnant young girl to be, [one] would be at the Little Sisters of the Poor convent,” said Wright.
Medical examiners determined the infant was a fully developed, full-term baby, born alive. According to prosecutors there was evidence in the lungs that the baby had cried and had been alive before being asphyxiated. Additionally, there was bruising and scratches to the infant’s nostrils.
According to charging documents, Amoa told police that after killing the baby she kept him in her room at the convent for the rest of that day. Amoa said that during this time she contemplated throwing the baby into the trash until the following morning when she lied to a nun and said she had found the baby outside. She later confessed to killing the baby, according to prosecutors.
Before her sentence was delivered, Amoa, held back tears as read a letter she wrote to the judge.
“Even though there is no forgiveness for what I have done, I ask for your forgiveness,” said Amoa.
Below is a press release from the U.S. Attorneys Office and sentencing documents.
District Woman Sentenced to Four Years in Prison
For Death of Infant Son at Northeast Washington Convent
Defendant Smothered Baby Shortly After Giving Birth
WASHINGTON – Sosefina Amoa, 26, formerly of Samoa, was sentenced today to four years in prison on a charge of voluntary manslaughter stemming from the death of her infant son at a convent in Northeast Washington, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.
Amoa pled guilty to the charge in February 2014 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. She was sentenced by the Honorable Robert E. Morin. Upon completion of her prison term, Amoa will be placed on five years of supervised release. She also is subject to deportation proceedings.
According to a proffer of facts presented at the plea hearing, Amoa arrived in the United States from Samoa on Oct. 5, 2013. She then entered a program to become a member of the Little Sisters of the Poor, an international congregation of Roman Catholic women who provide worldwide service to the elderly poor. She was considered a “Postulant,” a person who wanted to be admitted into a religious order. Amoa moved into the Little Sisters of the Poor’s convent in Northeast Washington, where she was to reside for five months while she received religious classes, learned doctrine, experienced prayer and community life, and cared for residents.
On Oct. 10, 2013, Amoa asked to be excused from her duties and went to her room. The baby was born in Amoa’s room that morning. Amoa cleaned the room in what authorities determined was an attempt to hide the birth of the child.
The following morning, Oct. 11, 2013, Amoa contacted one of the Sisters and took her to her room, where she showed her the baby. The Sister knew that the infant was dead.
Amoa gave conflicting accounts to the Sisters and police about what happened. Ultimately, on Oct. 16, 2013, she told detectives with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) that, after she gave birth to the child, the baby fell to the floor. She said that she got on the floor next to the baby, not knowing what to do, and that she was afraid that someone would hear crying and learn of her pregnancy. According to Amoa, she then placed a wool garment over the baby’s nose and mouth and applied pressure with her hand for two to three minutes.
The District of Columbia Office of the Medical Examiner determined that the cause of death was asphyxia. The infant was a fully developed, full-term baby, born alive. There was evidence in the lungs that the baby had cried and had been alive before being asphyxiated. Additionally, there was bruising and scratches to the infant’s nostrils.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen commended the work of the detectives, officers, and others who investigated the case from the Metropolitan Police Department. He also expressed appreciation to the District of Columbia Office of the Medical Examiner and the District of Columbia Department of Forensic Sciences for assistance in the investigation. Finally, he acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Kelly Blakeney, Victim/Witness Advocates Marcia Rinker and Lorraine Chase, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia G. Wright, who prosecuted the case.