Mother tells judge she suffocated baby
The 4-month-old girl upset the mom, who admits she smothered her daughter in 2002
A former Navy wife admitted to smothering her 4-month-old daughter, then leaving her body in a closet at Navy housing in Moanalua.
Nina Manning, 27, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court to second-degree murder for deliberately or recklessly causing the death of her daughter, Jasmine Manning, on Sept. 30, 2002.
"Several of my actions -- namely putting my hand over my daughter's mouth -- led to her death," Manning said yesterday when asked by U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright what she had done. "I wasn't trying to hurt her, but I did."
At the time of Jasmine's death, Manning's Navy husband had been deployed, leaving her at home at Radford Terrace with the infant and the couple's older daughter, 13 months old at the time.
In a later interview with Navy investigators, Manning admitted that she had been upset because of the baby's incessant crying.
The government has evidence that Manning placed one hand behind the infant's head, with her other hand covering the baby's mouth and nose, and dangled Jasmine as she struggled to breathe, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Loretta Sheehan. The baby lost consciousness.
Manning knew her daughter had been gravely harmed and needed medical attention, Sheehan told the court. But instead of getting help, she placed the infant on the floor in the closet, smoked a cigarette, then went to sleep, Sheehan said.
A Honolulu deputy medical examiner, based on the information available at the time, concluded the infant died of natural causes after finding a minor lung infection.
"There was no investigative information at the time, nor any autopsy findings consistent with any injuries of suffocation or other abusive, traumatic injuries," said Honolulu Chief Medical Examiner Kanthi De Alwis.
In October 2004 the Naval Criminal Investigative Service requested that the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology take another look.
They found that "circumstantial findings are strongly supportive of asphyxia as a mechanism of death."
By June 2005 the family had moved to St. Marys, Ga., where Manning's husband was reassigned. NCIS agents located her there and interviewed her, obtaining a confession.
Nearly an hour into an interview, she admitted that she had placed the infant on the floor in a bedroom closet on a pile of dirty clothes, shut the door and went outside to smoke a cigarette. She said she did not hear Jasmine crying anymore when she went back inside and believed she was asleep, but did not check.
The Honolulu medical examiner has since amended the cause of death to suffocation by homicide after being provided with Manning's confession.
Defense attorney Richard Kawana said Manning is extremely remorseful and is trying to cope as best as she can. She continues to receive therapy, he said.
In court documents the defense noted that Manning suffered from mental illness and depression.
Because Manning has been complying with conditions of her release, she was allowed to remain free on bail until she is sentenced on Jan. 22.