An Illinois college student accused of killing her newborn baby allegedly had the dead newborn boy in her backpack when police approached her on campus, authorities said.
Lindsay Johnson, 20, allegedly suffocated her son after giving birth in a residence hall bathroom on the University of Illinois’ campus about 1:30 p.m. March 13, according to reports.
Police checked on Johnson about 5 p.m. after another resident reported hearing a student in the bathroom for several hours groaning and crying, the Chicago Tribune reported. The student reportedly explained at the time that she had the stomach flu and didn’t need any help.
Authorities returned to campus after receiving information “from a person familiar with the situation” and reportedly found blood and evidence that a baby may have been born in the bathroom.
Police found Johnson about 8 p.m. near the Urbana-Champaign campus’ music building wearing a backpack.
After bringing her to the campus Public Safety Building, the agricultural communications major allegedly admitted she gave birth earlier in the day.
The infant’s body was found inside her backpack, prosecutors said.
Johnson was charged on Monday with first-degree murder, child endangerment and concealment of a homicidal death, officials said. She appeared in court the following day, where she pleaded not guilty.
Court records show she was released after posting 10 percent of a $750,000 bond.
“This is a tragic case and a complicated case,” her attorney, Thomas Bruno, told reporters. “There is much we still need to investigate and we intend to vigorously do so, to try to achieve justice on her behalf.”
Friends told the Tribune that Johnson had recently been spending most of her time with her boyfriend, a fellow marching band member.
And though Johnson, who was described as a kind and quiet farm girl, had recently gained some weight, it was normal for her to wear baggy clothes, friends said.
Johnson allegedly initially told police that she did not know she was pregnant until she gave birth to the boy, who she said was born not breathing.
But she admitted the boy was alive when he was born, the state’s attorney’s office said, adding that she may have been trying to quiet him by putting a towel or a hand over his mouth.
Johnson said she hid the baby’s body under her bed when police initially came to check on her, prosecutors said.
Forensic analysis of the college student’s phone showed searches from as far back as September for information on pregnancy, pregnancy symptoms, miscarriage, home abortions and how to manage physical signs of pregnancy after the loss of a baby, the Tribune wrote.
The Champaign County Coroner’s Office preliminary findings of the autopsy show the baby was born alive and there was “no evidence of natural disease or natural causes” of death.
If convicted, Johnson faces a sentence of up to 75 years, the state's attorney's office said. No one else has been charged.
Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz called the case “unusual” and said she had never encountered one like it, the Tribune wrote.
"I've done research and there are other similar cases around the country," said Rietz, who was first elected state's attorney in 2004. "It's not something we've had in Champaign County in my time."
Johnson is next due in court May 3.