FAIRFIELD — A Fairfield woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to a manslaughter charge in connection with the death of her infant son just over a year ago.

Following her plea, Kayla Stewart, 21, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with all but nine years suspended, followed by four years of probation. The two sides had reached of an agreement of a maximum sentence of 25 years, with a minimum sentencing of five years, before Judge Robert Murray imposed the sentence Wednesday at Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan.

Stewart previously had entered not guilty pleas in March to the charges of murder and manslaughter in relation with the death of her unnamed baby, whose body police found Jan. 11, 2016, in a garage.

By pleading guilty to manslaughter, Stewart had the charge of murder dismissed by the prosecution and waived her right to a trial either by jury or judge. Stewart also will have to pay restitution for fees incurred during a funeral service for the infant.

She has been in the custody of the state Department of Health and Human Services and undergoing a mental competence review.

Toward the conclusion of the roughly two-hour proceeding Wednesday, Stewart was asked if she wanted to address the crowd, which included her relatives and friends and relatives of the infant’s father, Nicholas Blood. Stewart was slow to stand.

“I’m sorry for everything,” Stewart said, sobbing.

Other than answering yes-or-no questions asked by Judge Murray, Stewart did not speak further.

Authorities found the baby’s remains Jan. 11. The child’s date of birth listed in an indictment against Stewart is Dec. 30, the same day as the alleged crimes. Stewart gave birth to the infant at the home she shared with her boyfriend, Blood, on Norridgewock Road in Fairfield, according to a state police affidavit. The couple also has a 3-year-old daughter.

Assistant Attorney General John Alsop said the deceased baby was named Evan James Blood.

State prosecutors say that after Stewart gave birth to the full-term, healthy baby boy, and killed him by either smothering or suffocating the child, or by leaving him in a cold, unheated garage to die. She allegedly told a state police detective that she “made sure” the baby was dead.

Stewart’s defense attorney previously had argued that Stewart had a miscarriage and panicked, so she was not responsible for the child’s death.

During the proceedings Wednesday, Stewart’s attorney Pamela Ames said Stewart became convinced she was carrying a dead baby, and that she would ultimately give birth to a stillborn. Ames said when Stewart gave birth that night, she checked for vital signs and did not find any. However, the prosecution team said an autopsy performed on the infant had shown he had drawn breath and had been a full-term baby. The infant’s body was recovered wrapped in towels and trash bags behind an oil tank, which Ames said was an act by Stewart “to keep (the baby) with her.”

“She believed this baby was dead,” Ames said.

But Alsop said Stewart disregarded the fact the infant was alive, which was evidenced by text messages sent to Blood in which Stewart “made it clear she didn’t want a child.”

Stewart originally was adopted by her parents, Randy and Lucille, in 1995 when she was just a few weeks old. In comments delivered to the court Wednesday, her father said her biological mother suffered from mental illness and struggled with substance abuse.

“Kayla is a good person who needs help with this mental illness,” her adoptive father told the court.

Stewart’s friend Janessa Julia said what happened was a tragedy and a mistake, and remembered Stewart as a good friend and caring mother to her 3-year-old daughter. She said she knows “God forgives,” so she would too.

“Kayla’s not a monster. She’s not,” Julia said, begging the judge for leniency.

Stewart’s parents and friends had asked Murray for leniency and read letters from other friends asking the same. However, those on the Blood side of the court asked for a heavier ruling of a maximum 25 years. Courtney Blood, who was the infant’s great-grandfather, read statements from his wife and his own. In the letter from his wife, Blood said she would “never be able to forgive Kayla, nor do I want to.”

Alsop said the claim that Stewart checked the infant’s vitals were not credible, as she lied to authorities multiple times during the investigation, at times saying she had a miscarriage at a hospital and then that it happened at home, before finally admitting the infant was in the garage.

“The baby was alive and she chose to disregard that fact,” Alsop said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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