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Last April, 18-year-old Nicolette Bingham gave birth in secret to a baby that suffocated on its own birth fluids. Then she discarded the body in a bag of cat litter. On Monday, Bingham, of Silver …
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Last April, 18-year-old Nicolette Bingham gave birth in secret to a baby that suffocated on its own birth fluids. Then she discarded the body in a bag of cat litter.
On Monday, Bingham, of Silver Plume, was sentenced to six years in Youth Offenders Services after pleading guilty in September to child abuse and neglect causing death.
A weeping Bingham entered the court Monday with a full room of supporters testifying to the woman's efforts at healing and redemption.
While the defense attempted to show that Bingham's decisions were tainted by a life of abuse by her own mother, the prosecution painted a gruesome picture of a girl who placed her baby on a dresser to die, watched a movie and then discarded the infant in a bag of cat litter that her mother later found in the trash.
"It's the prosecution's contention that she killed her child and left the baby to die," said Deputy District Attorney Tamar Wilson. Wilson attempted to show an interview with Bingham but could not get the video to work. Instead, she described an interview full of inconsistencies and what Wilson called "calculation."
At one point in the interview, Wilson said, Bingham reportedly said she "should have called the fire department," implying knowledge of the “safe haven” law that allows mothers to drop infants at fire departments with no questions asked. She also told investigators she was excited for prom the following week. At the time, Bingham was a 17-year-old student at Summit County High School.
"It was very clear she knew what she was going to do the whole time," Wilson said.
A life of neglect
Often at sentencing hearings, judges hear from a large number of people connected to the victim in the case. On Monday, no one spoke for the baby, but eight people spoke in support of Bingham, who has been living in transitional housing in Denver run by Open Door Ministries.
"Niki has so much grace and patience," said volunteer Jenny Lucas. "I am a better person for knowing her."
A letter from Bingham's grandmother described a life of abuse that Bingham suffered in the care of her mother. The letter said Bingham was physically abused and often left in the care of strangers and male roommates of her mother.
"Her childhood was taken away from her at a very young age," the letter read. "She is harder on herself than you could ever be."
Defense attorney Dana Christiansen told the judge rumors were circulating at the high school about Bingham's pregnancy and that her own mother also suspected she was pregnant.
"To a certain extent, society let Niki down," he said. "She was a child, in high school and deathly afraid of being kicked out of her home."
Bingham also tearfully addressed the judge.
"I am so sorry," she said. "I'm doing all that I can to face consequences … I want to grow and make a life for myself."
Punishment and rehabilitation
Judge Russell Granger acknowledged Bingham's efforts at rehabilitation through counseling, 12-step work and support at Ester House in Denver, but he said the seriousness of the crime required more punishment than allowing Bingham to continue her stay ay Ester house.
"The thing that is most disturbing in this case is there is a homicide," Granger said. "It's not murder, but a child is dead. The court just cannot ignore that. If you were 10 years older, we would not be discussing probation versus Youth Offender Services. We would be discussing 10 or 16 years in prison."
Granger ordered Bingham into custody immediately, and she will be transferred to YOS within a month, where she will undergo counseling and rehabilitation under 24-hour supervision.
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