A Samoan woman accused of suffocating her newborn in the Northeast D.C. convent where she was studying to become a nun was offered a plea deal Wednesday.
Under the agreement prosecutors offered during a hearing in D.C. Superior Court, 26-year-old Sosefina Amoa would plead to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter rather than first-degree murder. A preliminary hearing in the case was waived while Ms. Amoa and the public defender representing her consider the deal.
A manslaughter charge is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and a first-degree murder charge carries a penalty of no less than 30 years and up to life in prison, according to D.C. law.
Ms. Amoa was arrested last week after she gave birth to a boy she named Joseph at the Little Sisters of the Poor convent, then suffocated him inside her convent room, police said.
The woman arrived in the District on Oct. 5 from her home in the Pacific island nation. She came to the convent to study to be a nun and told authorities that she did not know she was pregnant when she went into labor Oct. 10.
Small in stature, Ms. Amoa wore a blue jumpsuit and shackles and dabbed her eyes with a tissue at times during the hearing. She listened to the courtroom discussions as they were translated by an off-site Samoan-language interpreter, whose voice cracked through the courtroom speakers as she spoke.
"It is clear by killing her own child that there is something wrong with this woman," assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Wright said, as she argued for Ms. Amoa's continued detention without bond. She added that witnesses did not believe Ms. Amoa when she claimed not to realize she was pregnant.
Ms. Amoa's public defender, Judith Pipe, noted that none of the witnesses interviewed realized Ms. Amoa was pregnant when she arrived at the convent.
Judge Robert E. Morin ordered Ms. Amoa to continue to be held without bond at the D.C. Jail while awaiting her next hearing Nov. 21. In the days after her arrest, Ms. Amoa was hospitalized briefly and was placed under suicide watch.
Several associates of the Little Sisters of the Poor attended the hearing but declined to comment afterward.
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