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Baby Theresa case: Mother sentenced for leaving stillborn baby in woods

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Posted at 3:03 PM, Sep 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-17 09:39:55-04

DODGE COUNTY (NBC 26)  — A Milwaukee woman was sentenced Friday for abandoning her stillborn baby in a garbage bag more than a decade ago.

According to a statement from the Dodge County District Attorney, Karin Luttinen, 46, was sentenced by Dodge County Circuit Court Judge Kristine Snow to a probation period of three years for Concealing the Death of a Child.

The court imposed and stayed one and one-half years of prison and two years of extended supervision only to be served if she does not successfully complete probation. The court also required that she serve six months of jail as a condition of probation, pay a $5,000 fine, and complete 60 hours of community service. Mental health treatment was also ordered as a part of the sentence.

On April 29, 2009, deputies responded to Lone Road in the town of Theresa and confirmed a newborn had been found dead in a garbage bag in the woods. The cause of death was listed as a stillbirth. The town of Theresa rallied around the deceased newborn, naming her Baby Theresa, and laying her to rest.

According to the District Attorney, investigators were finally able to identify the mother of the baby after 11 years when in 2020, Detective Vicki Brugger and ME P.J. Schoebel were able to locate a match using genealogy DNA testing. The investigators obtained DNA from Karin Luttinen that showed Luttinen was in fact Baby Theresa’s mother.

The D.A. said Luttinen confessed that she was pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl in the bathtub of her Shorewood home. After delivering, the baby was not breathing and Luttinen, in shock, discarded the baby in the woods.

Luttinen entered a guilty plea in April this year. At sentencing, District Attorney Kurt Klomberg, said, “hiding a pregnancy and giving birth at home to a stillborn child are not criminal acts in Wisconsin, but disposing the child’s remains in the woods in a trash bag clearly is a felony. Moreover, going home, acting like nothing happened, and hiding it all from the child’s father for over a decade while the couple built a life together is unconscionable.”

"The officers and medical examiner who had to respond to the scene and conduct the investigation live with the emotions and pain of what the defendant did to this day," Klomberg said. "The child’s father has had his life turned upside down. Our community suffered through the most painful experience in our collective memories. All of that pain was caused by the fact that the defendant would not give Baby Theresa the dignity that she deserved.”

Additionally, because of the limitations of the law, District Attorney Klomberg reached out to Representative Mark Born and Senator John Jagler over the low penalties in the current law. The pair of legislators have authored legislation to bring the penalties for Concealing the Death of a Child in line with the higher penalties of Hiding a Corpse.