A housekeeper who prosecutors say murdered her newborn moments after delivering it on the toilet bowl in her employer's West Islip home was ordered held without bail following her arraignment Friday in First District Court in Central Islip.
Defense attorney Michael Brown of Central Islip entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Santos Elena Ruiz Solano, 26, saying her baby girl was born prematurely -- and calling the incident "a real tragic case."
Family members also denied the woman killed the newborn, saying she was a mother of two in her native Honduras.
Her husband, Selvin Adonis Hernandez, called Ruiz Solano a humble, good person.
"She is very humble, very quiet," Hernandez said in Spanish, outside court, calling his wife a churchgoing woman who doesn't drink or smoke.
"She is good," Hernandez said. "She isn't a bad mother."
Judge Gigi Spellman ordered Ruiz Solano held without bail after Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock told the court that the woman killed her newborn with "blunt force" after delivering the child on the toilet bowl in the home where she was a live-in housekeeper on Shoal Drive in West Islip.
Ruiz Solano is charged with second-degree murder.
"The baby had three skull fractures that would have been caused by at least one impact," Kurtzrock said, adding: "When babies are born their skulls are very pliable, so to cause those fractures would have required a significant amount of force.
"It would not have been caused," Kurtzrock said, "by the baby simply falling for example or being dropped out of someone's arms."
But Brown suggested the skull fractures could have been caused by the newborn falling "into literally the toilet.
"This is a real tragic case in terms of somebody, a young lady, coming to America and trying to get a better way of life, trying to work here in America," Brown said.
Hernandez, who said he has been here more than three years, said his wife had come overland from Honduras about seven months ago to join him -- and said the couple, who already have a son and daughter, planned to have a child here.
Kurtzrock said police are uncertain how the baby died, since no object was found. "There is no way of knowing if an object was used or if the baby's head was struck against an object," he said outside of court. "By the time police looked at the bathroom it had been cleaned up."
He said that when Ruiz Solano went to the hospital, she brought two bags with her. "One of the bags she told her husband was garbage, and that he should throw it away and that was the bag the baby's body was in."
He said that after her husband put the bag on top of a garbage can, he and the owner of the home where Ruiz Solano worked as a housekeeper later became suspicious, and went outside to check the bag and "found the baby inside."
Her husband disputed this version of events, saying police misunderstood what he was saying and that the baby died accidentally. He said they brought the bag with the baby into the hospital.
Kurtzrock said Ruiz Solano's alleged rape may have provided a reason for her to kill the baby.
"She claimed to the police that her husband's brother had raped her while she was coming to the country," he said. "We don't know if that is true or not or if this baby is the genesis of that action. They are investigating that further. If anything that would seem to provide a motive for what she did."
He said she arrived here seven months ago, and told police the trip took about 45 days. "If the baby was conceived during that journey then the time line works out," he said.
But Brown contended that Ruiz Solano never received proper medical attention during the pregnancy, thus accounting for the stillbirth. "She wasn't afforded the opportunity for the medical care that many people get here in America," he said.
"The child is born stillborn," he added. "That's not a murder charge."
Kurtzrock responded: "That's completely controverted by the medical examiner's finding. The baby was born alive, absolutely."
Brown said Ruiz Solano has been devastated by the stillbirth and her arrest on murder charges.
"She is a mother who gave birth to a stillborn baby. She's traumatized," he said. "But now she is facing the hammer of the criminal justice system. This is overwhelming for somebody who's only been here six months."
"Obviously the allegation that the prosecution has put forth are horrendous, but they're not true," he added. "So we are looking forward to having our day in court."
He said that "she is very involved in" the lives of her two children in Honduras. "She is a loving mother. She came here simply to make money and then go back to Honduras and continue to take care of her children."
It was not immediately clear whether Hernandez knew his wife was pregnant before the delivery. Earlier this week, Suffolk police homicide Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick said Ruiz Solano had kept the pregnancy from her husband and her employers, an elderly couple -- saying they were all unaware until post-birth bleeding forced her to go to the hospital.
Fitzpatrick said Ruiz Solano gave birth to the "fully-developed" baby just before 3 a.m. Sunday at the Shoal Drive house where she lived five days a week as a housekeeper. The girl died minutes later, he said, from "skull fractures."
He said Ruiz Solano had been on the job for three weeks, returning to Central Islip on her days off. "She kept her pregnancy from her husband," he said, describing the woman as "petite," adding: "How she went about concealing that from her husband, I don't know."
After the birth, Ruiz Solano put the baby in a plastic trash bag in her room, Fitzpatrick said. She called her husband, telling him to come because she felt sick, he said.
"She leaves with her husband," Fitzpatrick said, " and she says, 'Make sure you take the garbage out,' " referring to the trash in her room.
He took the plastic bag to the car, then went to the nearby Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, Fitzpatrick said.
Before going in, he said, they dumped the bag with the baby in a trash can outside.
Even going in, her husband had no inkling of what happened, but hospital workers suspected Ruiz Solano had given birth, police said.
"She denies that," Fitzpatrick said, "but ultimately tells them 'Yes, I did give birth.' "
Authorities found the baby in the trash can, he said.
Ruiz Solano had arrived from Honduras nine months ago to join her husband in the basement apartment of the house, said Yesenia Torres, who was visiting her sister, a neighbor of the couple. She added that since the arrest, she had seen Ruiz Solano's husband crying.
Outside court on Friday Torres said of her friend: "She would never do this," calling the baby's death "an accident."
With Nicole Fuller and Ellen Yan