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In infant’s death, Bowman woman changes plea to negligent homicide

Stephanie Lindstrom, far right, sits in the basement courtroom of the Stark County Courthouse on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, alongside her lawyer, Erica Chisholm, and Bowman County State’s Attorney Andrew Weiss. At the change-of-plea hearing, Lindstrom pleaded guilty to negligent homicide. (Katherine Lymn/Dickinson Press)

DICKINSON, N.D. -- A Bowman woman originally charged with murdering her newborn baby won’t go to trial after pleading guilty Tuesday to a lesser charge.

Stephanie Lindstrom was originally charged with murder in August after she allegedly gave birth to a baby in a home bathroom and then drowned it in July. Lindstrom pleaded not guilty at a preliminary hearing in September, when police testimony previewed what the state’s case would show at trial.

But in a plea deal conditionally accepted by a judge Tuesday, Lindstrom changed her plea to guilty for negligent homicide.

A new hearing — added to the court calendar after Tuesday’s hearing — was set for Feb. 18 to “amend charge and defendant’s plea,” according to the notice of hearing, but it was unclear late Tuesday what that meant for the agreement reached earlier in the afternoon.

In the Stark County Courthouse’s basement courtroom, apparent family and friends of Lindstrom lined the back row. Lindstrom appeared in street clothes alongside her attorney, Erica Chisholm

Bowman County State’s Attorney Andrew Weiss said he conferred with law enforcement, other attorneys and medical professionals in drafting the agreement. The “medical portion especially” was important, he said.

Lindstrom underwent a mental health evaluation at Jamestown State Hospital on Dec. 12, according to court records.

Weiss said after the hearing that he couldn’t comment on what went into the agreement because the case is ongoing.

The original charge of murder is a Class AA felony in North Dakota, carrying a maximum sentence of life without parole.

The amended charge is a C felony, which carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

Judge William Herauf’s acceptance of the plea deal was conditional upon the completed pre-sentence investigation. If he finds out new information about Lindstrom’s past in the report, he may toss the agreement.

“I don’t have enough information before the pre-sentence investigation as to whether or not to accept the plea,” he said.

The state has 90 days to complete the sentencing investigation.

A jury trial, which had been scheduled for the first week of March, was taken off the court calendar.