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Mercyhurst volleyball player charged with suffocating newborn baby

9/18/2007

PITTSBURGH -- A Mercyhurst College volleyball player was
charged Tuesday with killing the baby she secretly gave birth to in
her campus apartment bathroom.

Teri Rhodes hid the pregnancy from friends and teammates, told a
doctor two days before the Aug. 12 birth that she didn't think she
was pregnant and did Internet research on topics including "what
can kill a fetus," Erie police said.

After giving birth, the 18-year-old Rhodes put the newborn in a
plastic bag and left it on the floor of a bathtub as she showered,
according to the criminal complaint.

Among other counts, Rhodes was charged with homicide, abusing a
corpse and concealing the death of a child. Her attorney, Philip
Friedman, declined to comment.

The sophomore has been living at her parents' house in Commerce,
Mich., near Detroit. She was freed on $25,000 bond Tuesday
afternoon.

"The defendant made no attempt to seek medical care and even
went so far as to deny to medical personnel that she had even given
birth," the complaint said. Rhodes "intentionally, knowingly,
recklessly or negligently caused the death of her newborn baby
girl."

The baby was full term, police said. A coroner ruled the death a
homicide, saying the infant girl had been alive for about 10
minutes before being suffocated.

A short time after Rhodes gave birth, the volleyball team's
assistant coach, Sarah King, took the teenager to a hospital,
unaware she had just delivered a baby, police said in an affidavit.

Rhodes initially denied to hospital personnel that she had given
birth, but later admitted it after being examined by a doctor,
according to the complaint. She told police she realized she was
giving birth when she went to the bathroom and saw the baby's leg.

Rhodes first told police the baby was in a trash bin, according
to the criminal complaint. Later, she told them the baby could be
found on the floor of her apartment bathroom.

Rhodes passed a sports physical that cleared her to play
volleyball two days before she gave birth, police said. Rhodes told
investigators the doctor asked her if she was pregnant and she
responded that "she didn't think so."

A day later, Aug. 11, King asked Rhodes to get a pregnancy test,
Rhodes told police. On the day of the birth, Aug. 12, Rhodes went
to morning volleyball practice, but didn't feel well and returned
to her apartment, police said. Within hours, she gave birth,
authorities said.

A search of Rhodes' laptop computer found that she had done
research on the Internet on topics including "what can kill a
fetus," "alternative methods of ending pregnancy" and "herbal
abortion techniques," according to the criminal complaint.

Erie County District Attorney Brad Foulk said investigators know
when Rhodes conducted the searches, but would only say they were
done "fairly close to the incident."
Mercyhurst is a private, Catholic liberal arts college with
about 3,000 students.