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Friday, December 3, 2021

Pardon Board commutes sentence for Burnsville woman who drowned her newborn baby

The Minnesota Pardon Board on Monday laid the groundwork for the commutation of a 35-year-old woman from Burnsville who drowned her newborn baby in a bathtub and dumped her body in a shoebox.

Samantha Hages was 19 in 2005 and was involved in an abusive relationship when she gave birth to a baby in a bathroom in an apartment. Hages said the baby’s father physically harmed her while trying to terminate the pregnancy and told Heiges to kill the baby. Hages said her boyfriend threatened to kill her and the baby if Hages did not commit suicide on her own.

The Minnesota Board of Pardons on November 22, 2021, commuted the 25-year sentence of 35-year-old Samantha Hages, who was found guilty of drowning her newborn daughter in a Burnsville apartment in 2005. Heiges was then 19 years old. (Minnesota Department of Corrections)

“I really thought in my head that no one can see a baby being born and still doesn’t want it. I wanted to leave her. I named her, I loved her, ”Hages told the board of directors. “Not a day goes by that I don’t feel guilt and remorse for what happened.”

Hages then turned down a plea deal and a potential 48-month jury sentence. A Dakota county jury found Hages guilty of second-degree murder. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison, of which she served almost 13 years.

Family members, medical experts and others said that Haiges lived with constant regret after taking the life of her young daughter and spent years improving herself through education and volunteering opportunities while in prison. And they said Hague should be released into the community so she could help raise her daughter alive.

The three-member panel, which includes Gov. Tim Waltz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and Chief Justice Laurie Skierven Gildea, agreed to allow Hages to serve the remainder of the supervised probation period rather than in jail. The board is set to meet again next month and will adopt a formal plan for Hague’s release.

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“This is because we believe that you will and will succeed,” Waltz said during the virtual hearing.

The group met on Monday after a five-month delay caused by challenging a state law requiring unanimous board approval for a pardon. A Ramsey County judge ruled in July that the law was unconstitutional and that a 2: 1 vote should be enough to pardon someone. But in September, the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the decision and declared the law constitutional.

The board handed down more than a dozen emergency pardons on Monday at a belated spring 2021 meeting. Pardon can be granted to people who have served their sentences and are of “good character and reputation.”

The group denied a request to commute Lincoln Caldwell’s life sentence for the Minneapolis murder. In 2006, Caldwell was in control of Kirk Harrison when Harrison shot and killed bystander Brian Cole in a gang-related unsuccessful shooting. Caldwell argued that his life sentence was too harsh and should be shortened to reflect his role in the passing car shooting.

Members are required by law to hold two meetings a year, with their next meeting scheduled for December 13-14.

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