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Melissa DREXLER

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "The Prom Mom"
 
Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Infanticide
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 6, 1997
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: July 10, 1978
Victim profile: Her newborn son
Method of murder: Suffocation (wrapped the baby in several garbage sacks, and deposited the bundle in a trash can)
Location: Monmouth County, New Jersey, USA
Status: Pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter. Sentenced to 15 years in prison on October 29, 1998. Released on parole on November 26, 2001
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Melissa Drexler (born 1979, a.k.a. "The Prom Mom"), delivered a baby in a restroom stall at her high school prom, and threw the body in the trash before returning to the dance.

She pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter, and was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment. After serving nearly 37 months, she was released on parole. She was given her dubious nickname by the American media.

Drexler attended Lacey Township High School, New Jersey. Over the course of nearly nine months she kept her pregnancy secret from the baby's father, her parents, and her new boyfriend, John T. Lewis, Jr. Five foot seven inches tall, and weighing 130 pounds, she apparently showed no signs of her condition.

On June 6, 1997, the day of her senior prom, the eighteen-year-old's waters broke in the morning, and she later suffered cramps on her way to the banquet hall. On arriving, she retired to the restroom, where the baby was born in about 1530 minutes.

According to her allocution, Drexler then retrieved the baby from the toilet bowl, cut the umbilical cord on the bathroom fixtures, wrapped the baby in several garbage sacks, and deposited the bundle in a trash can. She then went to the dance floor and, according to witnesses, "appeared to be just as she always was" and "exhibited indications of somebody enjoying the prom."

Some reports at the time stated that she requested the song "The Unforgiven" by Metallica, but later reports denied this. However, others had alleged that she had eaten a salad and danced afterwards.

The baby was discovered by a janitor, responding to reports of blood in the restroom, who became suspicious of the weight of the trash bag. Emergency workers attempted to resucitate the baby for two hours. Drexler later named the baby Christopher.

Originally charged with murder, Drexler pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter on October 29, 1998, and Judge John A. Ricciardi sentenced her to 15 years in prison, the maximum penalty. On November 26, 2001, she was released on parole after serving only little over three years.

 
 

Melissa Drexler (born 1978) is an American who delivered a baby in a restroom stall at her high school prom and put the body in the trash, before returning to the dance. Drexler pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter, and was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment. After serving nearly 37 months, she was released on parole.

Biography

Drexler attended Lacey Township High School in Forked River, New Jersey. Over the course of nearly nine months, she kept her pregnancy secret from the baby's father, her parents and classmates. Five feet seven inches tall, and weighing 60 kg (130 pounds), she apparently showed no signs of her pregnancy.

On June 6, 1997, Drexler gave birth in a toilet stall at her senior prom. She then retrieved the baby from the toilet bowl, cut the umbilical cord on the serrated edge of a sanitary napkin dispenser, wrapped the baby in several garbage sacks, and deposited the bundle in a trash can. She then returned to the dance floor.

The baby was discovered by a janitor who responded to reports of blood in the restroom and who became suspicious of the weight of the trash bag. Emergency workers attempted to resuscitate the baby for two hours. Originally charged with murder, Drexler pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter on August 20, 1998, and Judge John A. Ricciardi sentenced her to 15 years in prison, the maximum penalty. On November 26, 2001, she was released on parole after serving a little over three years. Drexler was nicknamed the "The Prom Mom" by the American media.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Melissa Drexler

Melissa Drexler, 18, concealed her pregnancy from everyone.

After arriving with friends at the Aberdeen Township Banquet Hall in New Jersey, for the Lacey Township High School prom, Drexler went to the women's restroom and gave birth to a son within about 20 - 30 minutes, with her friends right outside the stall.

She told her friend, "Go tell the boys I'll be right out."

Born alive, the infant was suffocated. Drexler cut the umbilical cord on the edge of a metal sanitary napkin box in the stall.

Drexler went to the dance floor.

Maintenance workers were called in to clean up the blood found a bag in the garbage with a dead baby inside. Blood tests revealed no trace of drugs or alcohol.

Prosecutors in Monmouth County initially charged Drexler with murder, but she pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter on October 29, 1998.

Statement read in court by Melissa Drexler as she pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter:

"I knew I was pregnant.

I concealed the pregnancy from everyone.

On the morning of the prom my water broke.

While I was in the car on the way to the prom, I began to have cramps. I went to the prom and I went into the bathroom and delivered the baby.

The baby was born alive. I knowingly took the baby out the toilet and wrapped a series of garbage bags around the baby. I then placed the baby in another garbage bag, knotted it closed and threw it in the trash can.

I was aware of what I was doing at the time when I placed the baby in the bag. And I was further aware that what I did would most certainly result in the death of the baby."

New Jersey v. Melissa Drexler "The Prom Mom Case"

Crying and apologetic, Melissa Drexler was sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing her newborn son moments after delivering the baby in the bathroom at her senior prom.

Melissa admits she killed her newborn son and plead guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the death of the boy she delivered during her high school senior prom.

Update: Released from prison, 11/2001 at age 23 to go home and live with her parents. She was noted to be a model prisoner. Melissa Drexler took fashion courses while in prison and hopes to work in the industry, said her lawyer, Steven Secare.

Karisable.com

 
 

Guilty Plea By Mother, 20, In Prom Death

By Ronald Smothers - The New York Times

August 21, 1998

In a barely audible, childlike monotone that gave little hint of remorse, the 20-year-old woman who delivered her child during her high school prom last year and then placed his body in a trash can pleaded guilty today to aggravated manslaughter in the child's death.

The woman, Melissa Drexler of Forked River, N.J., entered her plea in Superior Court in Monmouth County as part of a plea agreement that had been in place for more than a month. Her original court date of July 9 had been postponed by Judge John A. Ricciardi without explanation.

Today, Judge Ricciardi first questioned Ms. Drexler extensively to determine whether she understood the import of her decision to plead guilty. Then he formally accepted the plea and set sentencing for Oct. 29. Ms. Drexler has been free on bail, and will remain so until the sentencing.

Ms. Drexler stood next to her lawyer, Steven Secare, as she read a statement written in a blocky, upright cursive. Spectators had to strain to hear her recount what she did as an 18-year-old on June 6, 1997.

She said that she had kept her pregnancy a secret from friends and family. Her water broke in the car while she was on her way to the prom at a ballroom of the Garden Manor catering hall in Aberdeen Township.

''I went to the bathroom and delivered the baby,'' she said. ''The baby was born alive. I knowingly took the baby out of the toilet and wrapped a series of garbage bags around the baby.''

In matter-of-fact language apparently intended to show the ''knowing indifference'' that is required for a charge of aggravated manslaughter, she continued:

''I was aware of what I was doing when I placed the baby in the bag. I was further aware that what I did would most certainly result in the death of the baby.''

The Monmouth County Prosecutor, John Kaye, said that although his investigation turned up strong evidence against Ms. Drexler, he had chosen the plea agreement to avoid a trial. Among the reasons, he said inconclusive autopsy evidence of whether the baby was dead or alive at the time of delivery was likely to be bitterly contested by prosecution and defense experts.

Mr. Kaye added that had there been a trial, her lawyers had a good chance of winning acquittal for Ms. Drexler on the ground of ''extreme emotional disturbance.''

Aggravated manslaughter carries a 10- to 30-year sentence, but in line with the terms of the plea agreement, Mr. Kaye said that he would seek a sentence of 15 years. Under New Jersey law, Ms. Drexler would normally have to serve at least five years of that term before becoming eligible for parole, Mr. Kaye said. But he said with time off for good behavior, she could serve as little as 35 months.

Should Ms. Drexler serve 35 months, her imprisonment would last slightly longer than the expected stays of the two figures in another widely publicized infanticide case involving New Jersey teen-agers. Last month, Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson, two 20-year-olds from Wyckoff, N.J., pleaded guilty in a Delaware court to manslaughter in the death of their infant, whom they threw in a trash bin after he was born on Nov. 12, 1996, in a Newark, Del., motel room. Mr. Peterson, the first one to strike a deal to cooperate with the prosecution, received a 24-month sentence, while Ms. Grossberg received a 30-month sentence.

''I think this fits with other sentences in similar cases even though she doesn't show remorse,'' Mr. Kaye said of the Drexler case. He said that in his 15 years as county prosecutor there had been 12 other cases of killings of newborns. All but one resulted in plea agreements and similar sentences, he said. The one exception went to trial in 1987 and the defendant, Patricia Giles, was found guilty and sentenced to the maximum of 30 years.

Mr. Kaye and the senior prosecuting attorney, Elaine Leschot, speculated that a continuing remoteness from what had happened could account for Ms. Drexler's emotionless tone of voice at the hearing today.

Echoing the findings of prosecution and defense psychiatric examinations, Mr. Kaye described Ms. Drexler as someone who, upon becoming pregnant by her boyfriend, John Lewis of Barnegat Township, apparently isolated herself from her own emotions.

''There is no question, from a psychological point of view, that she was suffering from emotional stress, and one of the keys in showing her mental condition was how she isolated herself from her family and from her boyfriend,'' he said. ''She just denied it and continued to deny it.''

As the hearing unfolded in Judge Ricciardi's courtroom, the Greek-Revival courthouse was surrounded by an army of television trucks. Clutches of photographers were stationed at all the entrances in hopes of getting a picture of Ms. Drexler as she entered or left the courthouse.

In the time since she was first arrested more than a year ago, she has lightened her once-dark brown hair to a medium blond. As a result, some reporters who had older published photographs took little notice of the blonde woman who, nonchalant and unaccompanied, walked past them, entered the well of the courtroom and sat down at the defense table minutes before the start of today's proceedings.

Mr. Kaye, speaking after the court session ended, gave more details about the case than Ms. Drexler had revealed in her court statement. He said that his investigation had determined that Ms. Drexler had arrived at the prom between 7:30 and 7:45 P.M., gone immediately to the women's room, entered a stall and locked it while a friend remained outside. Mr. Kaye said that Ms. Drexler delivered the baby, whom he described as ''born perfect,'' into the toilet. She retrieved him and apparently cut the umbilical cord with the serrated edge of a paper towel dispenser that hung on the wall in the restroom stall.

Tests of the baby's lungs for signs that it may have drowned were ''inconclusive,'' Ms. Leschot said.

Mr. Kaye said that the prosecution experts and a well-known forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, who was brought in by Mr. Secare and Donald A. Venezia, the defense lawyers, differed on their explanation for this. Dr. Baden argued that it was possible that the child was stillborn and the air found in the lungs was put there by emergency medical technicians who tried to resuscitate the baby when they arrived about an hour after the birth.

''We found some marks on the child's neck which led us to believe that he might have been strangled and not asphyxiated or drowned,'' Mr. Kaye said. ''But the medical examiner wasn't sure if it was strangulation or asphyxiation.''

Speaking about Ms. Drexler's likely sentence, Mr. Kaye did note that if the baby's death had taken place three days later, she would have been subject to a new state law that requires that those convicted serve at least 80 percent of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

 
 

New Jersey Charges Woman, 18, With Killing Baby Born at Prom

By Robert hanley - The New York Times

June 25, 1997

The New Jersey teen-ager who gave birth in a bathroom stall at her senior prom was charged with murder today after the authorities concluded that she had delivered a healthy boy, cut the umbilical cord, choked him and put him in a plastic bag that she knotted and threw away.

The woman, Melissa Drexler, 18, of Forked River, was charged after an autopsy determined she had choked the baby and smothered him either with her hands or with the plastic bag, said John Kaye, the Monmouth County Prosecutor.

In the midst of it, Mr. Kaye said today, a girlfriend who had heard sounds from the bathroom stall asked Miss Drexler if she felt ill. The Prosecutor said she replied: ''I'll be done pretty soon. Go tell the boys we'll be right out.''

A few minutes later, leaving blood on the floor of the bathroom stall, Miss Drexler went to the dance floor with her boyfriend and prom date, John Lewis, ate a salad and danced one dance.

The case -- which recalled that of another New Jersey teen-ager, Amy Grossberg, and her boyfriend, Brian Peterson, who were charged with killing their newborn son in a motel and discarding his body -- stunned Miss Drexler's friends and relatives and attracted headlines across the country. Those who knew her said they had no idea the high school senior was pregnant.

In her hometown in southern New Jersey, there was little sympathy for Miss Drexler. Most people agreed with the sentiments of Michelle Donally, a 20-year-old neighbor, who said, ''My heart goes out to her parents, but not to her.''

On June 6, the night of the prom, Miss Drexler initially denied giving birth when teachers came up to her and others who had been in the women's bathroom to ask about the blood in the bathroom stall.

Miss Drexler replied that she was having a heavy menstrual flow, Mr. Kaye said.

A few minutes later, after the baby's body had been found in an outside trash bin at the prom site, the Garden Manor in Aberdeen, Miss Drexler told teachers she had given birth.

Mr. Kaye said Dr. Jay Peacock, an assistant county medical examiner, had established the cause of death as ''asphyxia due to manual strangulation and obstruction of the external airway orifices.''

Dr. Peacock was unable to determine if the baby was dead or alive when he was placed inside the bag and a knot was tied at the top of the bag, Mr. Kaye said.

''We are certain the baby was alive after it was born,'' Mr. Kaye said. ''When it ceased to be alive, we cannot say."

Besides the murder charge, which carries a sentence of 30 years to life, Miss Drexler was accused of endangering the welfare of a child, a second-degree crime in New Jersey with a penalty of 5 to 10 years.

Mr. Kaye dismissed suggestions that the endangering charge was a fall-back position for his office, and said it would be merged with the murder charge when the case was presented to a Monmouth County grand jury in about a month.

Mr. Kaye said it was unlikely that his office would seek the death penalty, because of Miss Drexler's age, her lack of a criminal record and what he called ''the stress and extreme emotional disturbance'' of the birth.

In early afternoon today, Miss Drexler, a senior at Lacey Township High School, made a five-minute appearance in State Superior Court and was released on a $50,000 property bond by Judge John Ricciardi. She said little as the judge explained her legal rights.

After Miss Drexler left the courthouse with her father, her lawyer, Steven Secare, said his client was not guilty.

He declined further comment because, he said, his own investigation was not yet complete. He said Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist in New York, had conducted a separate autopsy on the baby's body at the request of the Drexler family. In addition, he said, a Pennsylvania psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Sadoff, had examined Miss Drexler. Mr. Secare said he is awaiting both reports.

Dr. Baden said in an interview later today that ''the autopsy findings are ambiguous as to whether the baby was alive, because of all the resuscitation that was performed.''

The resuscitation efforts caused changes in the baby's body, he said, and the birth process might have caused additional changes. ''It's a very difficult type of death to determine, whether a baby was born alive or not,'' Dr. Baden said.

Miss Drexler, an only child, arrived home with her parents shortly before 4 P.M. A crowd of reporters, some with television cameras, on the otherwise quiet street of neat ranch houses called out to her. But Miss Drexler, wearing a sun dress and dark glasses, merely threw her hands in the air, then went inside, bending down to pet her dog on the way.

At a news conference this morning, Mr. Kaye said Dr. Peacock was satisfied that the baby was alive and breathing after the birth because Dr. Peacock had found air in the baby's lungs and intestines.

''The doctor says this is a very significant finding, amongst others,'' Mr. Kaye said of the air in the intestines. The Prosecutor said the medical findings were critical to the state's case, because investigators had not found any witnesses who saw the birth, heard any screams from Miss Drexler or cries from the baby, or saw who placed the bag containing the baby in the bathroom's trash receptacle nine feet from the stall where the birth occurred.

Mr. Kaye said he was convinced that only Miss Drexler knew of her pregnancy. He said the baby was born at full term, without any congenital defects or deformities.

While driving to the Garden Manor with her boyfriend and another couple, Ms. Drexler complained of stomach cramps, the Prosecutor said. He said she went to the bathroom at the catering hall as soon as they reached it about 7 or 7:30 P.M. and gave birth almost immediately, 20 minutes after she had complained of the cramps in the car.

''She got no assistance,'' Mr. Kaye said of the birth. ''She did this herself.''

A girlfriend was in the bathroom during some of the time Miss Drexler was in the stall, heard sounds of scraping metal and saw Miss Drexler trying to wipe her foot across blood on the tile floor, Mr. Kaye said.

Exactly how the child's umbilical cord was cut is uncertain, the Prosecutor said. But he said the authorities suspect that Miss Drexler dislodged a metal container for sanitary napkins from a wall in the stall and severed the cord with the container's serrated edge. He said the cut in the umbilical cord was jagged.

The authorities suspect that the scraping noises the friend overheard were caused by Miss Drexler's removing the napkin container.

After Miss Drexler and her friend left the bathroom, a matron cleaned the bloody stall, placed soiled towels in a plastic bag in the bathroom's trash receptacle and took the bag to an outside trash bin. As she carried it, she noticed that it was heavy and called a maintenance worker. He looked inside the bag and found the knotted bag containing the baby's body.

If the matron had not been curious about the bag's weight, Mr. Kaye said, the body might never have been found.

''No one knew this woman was having a baby,'' he said.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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