News

Teen mom accepts manslaughter plea deal

by AMANDA WINTERS
Sequim Gazette

More than three years after being charged as an adult with first-degree premeditated murder in the death of her infant son, Lauryn L. Last, 19, accepted a plea deal from the Clallam County Prosecutor’s Office.

 

Last made an Alford Plea, which does not admit guilt but concedes enough evidence exists for a likely jury finding of guilt, to the amended charge of manslaughter in the second degree in juvenile court Jan. 25.

 

Last was 15 when she became pregnant by a 34-year-old man in Colorado, who was sentenced to four years for the sexual assault, according to court documents. On Dec. 30, 2008, then-16-year-old Last gave birth to a boy on the toilet in her father’s Port Angeles residence, police said.

 

According to court documents, Last kept her pregnancy a secret until after the birth and disposed of the body in a garbage receptacle.

 

Though Last allegedly confessed to police she allowed the baby to drown before placing it in a bath mat and dropping it in a garbage can, there was no forensic proof of a live birth after the baby’s remains were found several days later in a Tacoma landfill, Deputy Prosecutor John Troberg said.

Question of confession

A year of hearings with expert testimony questioned whether Last’s confession could be admitted in court. Defense attorney John Hayden argued the four-hour police interview conducted two days after the birth should be suppressed from trial because Last was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder by a psychologist shortly after she was taken into custody at the juvenile detention center.

A psychologist testifying for the prosecution disputed that a stress disorder would inhibit Last’s ability to understand her rights as given by Port Angeles Police officers prior to the interview.

 

Ultimately, Judge Ken Williams ruled Last’s condition may have made her susceptible to telling officers what they wanted to hear, but he could not find any evidence police acted inappropriately and therefore the statements could be admitted at trial.

 

Trial was set to begin March 12.

Decision to lower charge

The original murder charge, filed by Clallam County Prosecutor Deb Kelly on Jan. 7, 2009, was reduced to second-degree murder in March 2010 by Troberg.

 

The decision to lower the charge to second-degree manslaughter and remand it back to juvenile court took into account Last’s age at the time of birth, the manner in which she became pregnant and the lack of parental support, Troberg said.

 

Prosecutors concluded it was highly unlikely a jury would convict Last of murder in adult court.

 

“This resolution holds her accountable for the homicide of her infant son,” Troberg said. “While an imperfect resolution, it is consistent with the facts the state could prove at trial.”

 

The Prosecutor’s Office spent $25,832 on expert witnesses, more than $1,000 on documents and $52 on research materials for the case, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols said.

 

Superior Court Administrator Lindy Clevenger said the court paid $5,958 in expert services for the case.

 

The Clallam Public Defender’s Office did not respond to two requests for an estimate of how much money was spent on Last’s case.

 

Williams sentenced Last to 30 days in juvenile detention, with credit for nine months served, and a year of probation. He also ordered her to continue getting counseling.

 

Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com.
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