GALLATIN, Tenn. (AP) — One police officer choked up and another fought back tears Tuesday as they testified about finding two dead babies in a laundry basket at the home of a young Tennessee woman charged with murder.
Officer Jeremy Fentress took the stand and described entering the bedroom of defendant Lindsey Lowe and pulling back a bloody towel. He stopped speaking for a few seconds, then told the court: "After I pulled the bloody towel back, I saw a deceased infant."
Fentress said he touched the baby with two fingers and found the infant was cold and not breathing. The newborn was the first of two found Sept. 14, 2011, in a two-story home of an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Hendersonville, about 20 miles northeast of Nashville.
The second was found by Sgt. James Garrett, who described getting ready to lay the first baby down on a bed "softly and gently" before he discovered the umbilical cord, still attached to something deeper in the basket. Fentress held the body of the first baby while Garrett pulled aside a sheet to uncover the second one — also dead. Garrett said he placed the first baby back in the basket beside his brother.
Lowe, now 26, is facing two counts of first-degree murder at her trial, which opened Monday.
She had told police she gave birth to the twin boys in the bathroom of the home on the night of Sept. 12, 2011, and smothered them so that her parents would not hear their cries. Lowe's parents found one of the babies two days later and alerted police.
Assistant District Attorney General Ron Blanton recalled Lowe's statement to police as, "I just put my hand down there over their mouth — the baby's mouth — until it stopped crying."
But defense attorney John Pellegrin suggested in opening statements that Lowe didn't clearly recall what had happened that night, and the police detective who interviewed Lowe planted the idea that she had smothered the babies.
Both sides in the case agree that Lowe did not act like a pregnant woman in the days and weeks leading up to the birth.
"Officers, during their search of the house, found no evidence of an expectation of life," Assistant District Attorney Blanton said during opening statements. "There were no diapers, no pacis (pacifiers), no blankets, no car seat."
Pellegrin also told jurors Lowe was a bridesmaid in a wedding the weekend before the birth where she was dancing, laughing and posing for pictures. The night before the births, one of her sorority sisters stayed at her house, even sleeping in Lowe's bed, he said. And yet no one knew she was pregnant.
Prosecutors suggested that a lack of preparations showed Lowe never intended for the babies to live.
They pointed out that Lowe had been engaged to her college sweetheart in 2011, but had gotten pregnant when she had an affair with another man.
"Miss Lowe made no preparation for the births of these children because no one was going to interfere with her life," Blanton said in opening statements.
But defense attorneys argued that the case was not so simple.
"Lindsey Lowe was pregnant, but she refused to accept it, her mind refused to accept it," Pellegrin said. He argued that Lowe didn't realize what was happening when she started to give birth in the bathroom.
"She thinks her internal organs are coming out," he told the jury.
Family, friends and church members have come to Lowe's defense.
In earlier hearings, Lowe's father Mark Lowe described her as a "model daughter," saying she moved back in with her family after graduating from Western Kentucky University in 2008 and took care of her mother, who had a brain tumor.
The final witness Tuesday was Det. Steve Malach, who interviewed Lowe after the babies were discovered. He testified how Lowe told him she gave birth and then put the babies in a laundry basket. When he asked if she ever checked on them, "she said she couldn't face it," he told jurors.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Lowe could face life in prison without parole. Prosecutors had said previously they would not seek the death penalty.
Testimony continues Wednesday.