Mother accused in C-section death has prior conviction

Sunday, March 14, 2004

SALT LAKE CITY -- The woman charged with killing one of her twins by refusing a Caesarean section was convicted of child endangerment in Pittsburgh nearly four years ago, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The 2000 conviction of Melissa Rowland stemmed from a supermarket incident in which she punched her daughter several times in the face after the toddler picked up a candy bar and began eating it, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. Witnesses said Rowland screamed, "You ate the candy bar and now I can't buy my cigarettes."

An Allegheny County, Pa., court sentenced Rowland to five years probation for simple assault, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child. Her daughter was turned over to a child-welfare agency.

Prosecutors in Salt Lake City charged Rowland Thursday with criminal homicide and child endangerment for refusing doctors' advice to get a C-section.

Charging documents allege that Rowland was warned numerous times between Christmas and Jan. 9 that her twins would likely die if she did not get immediate medical treatment.

One of the twins, a boy, was stillborn Jan. 13. A girl survived and has since been adopted, but prosecutors say she tested positive for cocaine and alcohol.

Rowland, 28, of the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan, has denied prosecutors' claims that she avoided the surgery because of fears of scarring.

A call after hours to Rowland's attorney, Michael Sikora, was not immediately returned. Sikora has said Rowland has a history of mental illness. Rowland said she attempted suicide twice and has spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

In a jailhouse interview with The Associated Press Friday, Rowland said her two children from her estranged husband have lived with his parents since 1997. She did not mention the prior conviction and said her children, ages 7 and 9, no longer live with her because she thought they were better off with their grandparents.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: