His name was Adam, and he was born a month premature on May 18, 2015, to a mother who delivered him standing up in a laundry room on a quiet street in Rock Hill.
Adam was bluish, with narcotics and methamphetamine in his tiny body.
The only sound was weak, muted, crying.
Six minutes of cries.
Before dying and being buried by his mother in the backyard.
Adam cried, court testimony Thursday showed, a cry the drug-abusing mother, Tara Ostrowski – who had taken four narcotic pain pills and chugged a 24-ounce malt liquor beer to dull the pain – claimed was “weak, not like other babies,” as she cut the umbilical cord with some scissors.
The baby was born to Ostrowski, an admitted drug user whose lawyer said was a chronic domestic violence victim. The woman claimed she hid her pregnancy out of fear for her life at the hands of an allegedly abusive husband.
Adam lived six minutes.
His mother pleaded guilty to it all on Thursday and got three years of probation.
Adam died in the bathroom, and his 39-year-old mother wrapped him in a towel and put him in the bathtub to hide the body. She cleaned the bathroom and laundry room with bleach. Then she left the body outside under a patio table for three days, wrapped in black sheeting, hoping nobody would find out.
When she buried Adam in the backyard in a metal box, Ostrowski covered the box with quick setting concrete. Then she covered up the hole that was 22 inches around with dirt so nobody would ever know what was under the ground.
The police found out days later and Ostrowski admitted everything. Weeks later, she was charged with unlawful neglect of a child. More serious charges were not filed because police and prosecutors agreed there was no intent to kill the baby.
Probation, not prison
Despite hiding the pregnancy, using serious drugs while pregnant and having the baby without any medical care during pregnancy or calling for help after the baby was alive for those six minutes, Tara Ostrowski received three years of probation on Thursday in a Moss Justice Center courtroom in York.
Ostrowski faced up to 10 years in prison. But the judge, Dan Hall, said in court that while having a baby while using drugs and not going to a hospital for birth is clearly unlawful neglect, Ostrowski will get better substance abuse help in an in-patient treatment program than a prison. Hall said South Carolina’s Department of Corrections does not have a good track record of dealing with drug abusers, so he ordered in-patient treatment that must last as long as 60 days, then probation.
A five-year sentence “hangs over her head” if she does not complete the probation and treatment, Hall said in court.
Ostrowski cried in court and said, “I’m so sorry. ... There are not words for the remorse I have.”
She also stated that she “never meant to harm anybody” but caused “devastation and loss.”
“I ask you give me a chance to be a mom again and get on with my life,” Ostrowski told the judge.
Ostrowski did not dispute or deny that she hid the pregnancy, had the baby and buried him. But her lawyer, York County Chief Public Defender Harry Dest, said Ostrowski’s life had been abuse for seven years at the hands of her husband. She already had an abortion in 2012 because of the abuse and her husband not wanting a child, Dest said, and she deserved probation.
Her plan was to have the baby and give it to a “safe haven,” Dest said, but the baby was born first.
Ostrowski’s actions to hide the pregnancy came in fear for her life and abuse if another pregnancy was discovered.
“Why would a woman starve herself and conceal a pregnancy?” Dest asked in court. “The answer is fear. Fear and hopelessness and despair, caused by violent abuse over the past seven years.”
Ostrowski tried suicide several times before and after the baby was born in May, including times where she stabbed herself in the head with a knife.
Yet while her lawyer claimed Ostrowski was a victim of violence, Ostrowski has a conviction from 2012 where the abuse victim was her husband.
Ostrowski’s husband was not in court Thursday. However, prosecutor Erin Joyner said the husband had visited Tara Ostrowski as recently as Monday in jail as she waited for court, and didn’t want his wife to go to prison.
More, Joyner said that while domestic violence is wrong, “any violence in the relationship does not excuse her conduct,” and Ostrowski should receive some prison time.
Joyner called Ostrowski a “habitual drug abuser” who “used methamphetamine for years including during two pregnancies” and never sought help for a baby born in obvious medical crisis then buried the body to cover it up.
“She needs to be punished for the series of decisions she made that day,” Joyner sad. “When she saw that baby in distress, she should have called 911.”
Ostrowski named the baby “Adam” posthumously – after the baby died, Joyner said.
“That was the only humanizing thing she did for this baby,” said Joyner in court. “She treated him like a problem.”
But the problem baby died. And testimony showed Thursday that Ostrowski – who will serve no prison time if she completes drug treatment and probation – did nothing about it. She did, however, bury a secret baby she later called Adam in the backyard – in a cement grave after he lay wrapped in a towel and black tarp for three days under a table in the hot May sun of Rock Hill.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065