Central Valley

Illness delays hearing in Turlock baby's death

An ear infection postponed a preliminary hearing for a Turlock woman accused of killing her newborn baby.

Jessica Mae Betts, now 20, was diagnosed with an ear infection Monday at the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center. She had been scheduled Tuesday for a preliminary hearing, where Judge Donald Shaver was to determine if there is sufficient evidence to hold her for trial.

"Yesterday at 8 a.m., the defendant was treated for an ear infection," said Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees, who is prosecuting the case. "We wouldn't want to proceed with the preliminary hearing if there is some possibility she can't hear."

Betts attended the court proceeding, wearing a red jail jumpsuit and shackles. She spoke only once, answering "Yes" when Shaver asked her if she was willing to waive her right to a speedy trial.

Shaver rescheduled the hearing — anticipated to be a daylong event — for Dec. 28.

Betts is charged with first-degree murder after her newborn girl was found in a trash bin in Turlock last year.

Betts told police she delivered a baby in the bathroom of her boyfriend's house in Turlock on Nov. 8, wrapped the newborn in a pair of purple sweat pants and a towel, and drove to a supermarket, where she cried as her baby's breathing slowed and then stopped, according to search warrant documents.

Betts told detectives she didn't know how the newborn got into the Dumpster. A coroner's report lists the cause of death for the baby, named Maria Mae Betts, as "asphyxiation by suffocation."

The infant was found in a Dumpster at the Save Mart parking lot in the 1600 block of Lander Avenue.

Betts has pleaded not guilty. She remains in custody with bail set at $1 million.

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.