1979, a.k.a. "The Prom Mom"), delivered a baby in a restroom stall
at her high school prom, and threw the body in the trash before
returning to the dance.
She pled guilty
to aggravated manslaughter, and was sentenced to fifteen years'
imprisonment. After serving nearly 37 months, she was released on
parole. She was given her dubious nickname by the American media.
Lacey Township High School, New Jersey. Over the course of nearly
nine months she kept her pregnancy secret from the baby's father,
her parents, and her new boyfriend, John T. Lewis, Jr. Five foot
seven inches tall, and weighing 130 pounds, she apparently showed
no signs of her condition.
On June 6, 1997,
the day of her senior prom, the eighteen-year-old's waters broke
in the morning, and she later suffered cramps on her way to the
banquet hall. On arriving, she retired to the restroom, where the
baby was born in about 15–30 minutes.
According to her
allocution, Drexler then retrieved the baby from the toilet bowl,
cut the umbilical cord on the bathroom fixtures, wrapped the baby
in several garbage sacks, and deposited the bundle in a trash can.
She then went to the dance floor and, according to witnesses,
"appeared to be just as she always was" and "exhibited indications
of somebody enjoying the prom."
Some reports at
the time stated that she requested the song "The Unforgiven" by
Metallica, but later reports denied this. However, others had
alleged that she had eaten a salad and danced afterwards.
The baby was
discovered by a janitor, responding to reports of blood in the
restroom, who became suspicious of the weight of the trash bag.
Emergency workers attempted to resucitate the baby for two hours.
Drexler later named the baby Christopher.
charged with murder, Drexler pled guilty to aggravated
manslaughter on October 29, 1998, and Judge John A. Ricciardi
sentenced her to 15 years in prison, the maximum penalty. On
November 26, 2001, she was released on parole after serving only
little over three years.
Melissa Drexler (born 1978) is an
American who delivered a baby in a restroom stall at her high
school prom and put the body in the trash, before returning to the
dance. Drexler pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter, and was
sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment. After serving nearly 37
months, she was released on parole.
Drexler attended Lacey Township High School in
Forked River, New Jersey. Over the course of nearly nine months,
she kept her pregnancy secret from the baby's father, her parents
and classmates. Five feet seven inches tall, and weighing 60 kg
(130 pounds), she apparently showed no signs of her pregnancy.
On June 6, 1997, Drexler gave birth in a toilet
stall at her senior prom. She then retrieved the baby from the
toilet bowl, cut the umbilical cord on the serrated edge of a
sanitary napkin dispenser, wrapped the baby in several garbage
sacks, and deposited the bundle in a trash can. She then returned
to the dance floor.
The baby was discovered by a janitor who
responded to reports of blood in the restroom and who became
suspicious of the weight of the trash bag. Emergency workers
attempted to resuscitate the baby for two hours. Originally
charged with murder, Drexler pled guilty to aggravated
manslaughter on August 20, 1998, and Judge John A. Ricciardi
sentenced her to 15 years in prison, the maximum penalty. On
November 26, 2001, she was released on parole after serving a
little over three years. Drexler was nicknamed the "The Prom Mom"
by the American media.
Melissa Drexler, 18, concealed her pregnancy
After arriving with friends at the Aberdeen
Township Banquet Hall in New Jersey, for the Lacey Township High
School prom, Drexler went to the women's restroom and gave birth
to a son within about 20 - 30 minutes, with her friends right
outside the stall.
She told her friend, "Go tell the boys I'll be
Born alive, the infant was suffocated. Drexler
cut the umbilical cord on the edge of a metal sanitary napkin box
in the stall.
Drexler went to the dance floor.
Maintenance workers were called in to clean up
the blood found a bag in the garbage with a dead baby inside.
Blood tests revealed no trace of drugs or alcohol.
Prosecutors in Monmouth County initially
charged Drexler with murder, but she pled guilty to aggravated
manslaughter on October 29, 1998.
Statement read in court by Melissa Drexler as
she pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter:
"I knew I was pregnant.
I concealed the pregnancy from everyone.
On the morning of the prom my water broke.
While I was in the car on the way to the prom,
I began to have cramps. I went to the prom and I went into the
bathroom and delivered the baby.
The baby was born alive. I knowingly took the
baby out the toilet and wrapped a series of garbage bags around
the baby. I then placed the baby in another garbage bag, knotted
it closed and threw it in the trash can.
I was aware of what I was doing at the time
when I placed the baby in the bag. And I was further aware that
what I did would most certainly result in the death of the baby."
New Jersey v. Melissa Drexler "The Prom Mom
Crying and apologetic, Melissa Drexler was
sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing her newborn son
moments after delivering the baby in the bathroom at her senior
Melissa admits she killed her newborn son and
plead guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the death of the boy
she delivered during her high school senior prom.
Update: Released from prison, 11/2001 at age 23
to go home and live with her parents. She was noted to be a model
prisoner. Melissa Drexler took fashion courses while in prison and
hopes to work in the industry, said her lawyer, Steven Secare.
Guilty Plea By
Mother, 20, In Prom Death
By Ronald Smothers - The New York Times
August 21, 1998
In a barely audible, childlike monotone that
gave little hint of remorse, the 20-year-old woman who delivered
her child during her high school prom last year and then placed
his body in a trash can pleaded guilty today to aggravated
manslaughter in the child's death.
The woman, Melissa Drexler of Forked River,
N.J., entered her plea in Superior Court in Monmouth County as
part of a plea agreement that had been in place for more than a
month. Her original court date of July 9 had been postponed by
Judge John A. Ricciardi without explanation.
Today, Judge Ricciardi first questioned Ms.
Drexler extensively to determine whether she understood the import
of her decision to plead guilty. Then he formally accepted the
plea and set sentencing for Oct. 29. Ms. Drexler has been free on
bail, and will remain so until the sentencing.
Ms. Drexler stood next to her lawyer, Steven
Secare, as she read a statement written in a blocky, upright
cursive. Spectators had to strain to hear her recount what she did
as an 18-year-old on June 6, 1997.
She said that she had kept her pregnancy a
secret from friends and family. Her water broke in the car while
she was on her way to the prom at a ballroom of the Garden Manor
catering hall in Aberdeen Township.
''I went to the bathroom and delivered the
baby,'' she said. ''The baby was born alive. I knowingly took the
baby out of the toilet and wrapped a series of garbage bags around
In matter-of-fact language apparently intended
to show the ''knowing indifference'' that is required for a charge
of aggravated manslaughter, she continued:
''I was aware of what I was doing when I placed
the baby in the bag. I was further aware that what I did would
most certainly result in the death of the baby.''
The Monmouth County Prosecutor, John Kaye, said
that although his investigation turned up strong evidence against
Ms. Drexler, he had chosen the plea agreement to avoid a trial.
Among the reasons, he said inconclusive autopsy evidence of
whether the baby was dead or alive at the time of delivery was
likely to be bitterly contested by prosecution and defense
Mr. Kaye added that had there been a trial, her
lawyers had a good chance of winning acquittal for Ms. Drexler on
the ground of ''extreme emotional disturbance.''
Aggravated manslaughter carries a 10- to
30-year sentence, but in line with the terms of the plea
agreement, Mr. Kaye said that he would seek a sentence of 15
years. Under New Jersey law, Ms. Drexler would normally have to
serve at least five years of that term before becoming eligible
for parole, Mr. Kaye said. But he said with time off for good
behavior, she could serve as little as 35 months.
Should Ms. Drexler serve 35 months, her
imprisonment would last slightly longer than the expected stays of
the two figures in another widely publicized infanticide case
involving New Jersey teen-agers. Last month, Amy Grossberg and
Brian Peterson, two 20-year-olds from Wyckoff, N.J., pleaded
guilty in a Delaware court to manslaughter in the death of their
infant, whom they threw in a trash bin after he was born on Nov.
12, 1996, in a Newark, Del., motel room. Mr. Peterson, the first
one to strike a deal to cooperate with the prosecution, received a
24-month sentence, while Ms. Grossberg received a 30-month
''I think this fits with other sentences in
similar cases even though she doesn't show remorse,'' Mr. Kaye
said of the Drexler case. He said that in his 15 years as county
prosecutor there had been 12 other cases of killings of newborns.
All but one resulted in plea agreements and similar sentences, he
said. The one exception went to trial in 1987 and the defendant,
Patricia Giles, was found guilty and sentenced to the maximum of
Mr. Kaye and the senior prosecuting attorney,
Elaine Leschot, speculated that a continuing remoteness from what
had happened could account for Ms. Drexler's emotionless tone of
voice at the hearing today.
Echoing the findings of prosecution and defense
psychiatric examinations, Mr. Kaye described Ms. Drexler as
someone who, upon becoming pregnant by her boyfriend, John Lewis
of Barnegat Township, apparently isolated herself from her own
''There is no question, from a psychological
point of view, that she was suffering from emotional stress, and
one of the keys in showing her mental condition was how she
isolated herself from her family and from her boyfriend,'' he
said. ''She just denied it and continued to deny it.''
As the hearing unfolded in Judge Ricciardi's
courtroom, the Greek-Revival courthouse was surrounded by an army
of television trucks. Clutches of photographers were stationed at
all the entrances in hopes of getting a picture of Ms. Drexler as
she entered or left the courthouse.
In the time since she was first arrested more
than a year ago, she has lightened her once-dark brown hair to a
medium blond. As a result, some reporters who had older published
photographs took little notice of the blonde woman who, nonchalant
and unaccompanied, walked past them, entered the well of the
courtroom and sat down at the defense table minutes before the
start of today's proceedings.
Mr. Kaye, speaking after the court session
ended, gave more details about the case than Ms. Drexler had
revealed in her court statement. He said that his investigation
had determined that Ms. Drexler had arrived at the prom between
7:30 and 7:45 P.M., gone immediately to the women's room, entered
a stall and locked it while a friend remained outside. Mr. Kaye
said that Ms. Drexler delivered the baby, whom he described as
''born perfect,'' into the toilet. She retrieved him and
apparently cut the umbilical cord with the serrated edge of a
paper towel dispenser that hung on the wall in the restroom stall.
Tests of the baby's lungs for signs that it may
have drowned were ''inconclusive,'' Ms. Leschot said.
Mr. Kaye said that the prosecution experts and
a well-known forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, who was
brought in by Mr. Secare and Donald A. Venezia, the defense
lawyers, differed on their explanation for this. Dr. Baden argued
that it was possible that the child was stillborn and the air
found in the lungs was put there by emergency medical technicians
who tried to resuscitate the baby when they arrived about an hour
after the birth.
''We found some marks on the child's neck which
led us to believe that he might have been strangled and not
asphyxiated or drowned,'' Mr. Kaye said. ''But the medical
examiner wasn't sure if it was strangulation or asphyxiation.''
Speaking about Ms. Drexler's likely sentence,
Mr. Kaye did note that if the baby's death had taken place three
days later, she would have been subject to a new state law that
requires that those convicted serve at least 80 percent of their
sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
New Jersey Charges Woman, 18,
With Killing Baby Born at Prom
By Robert hanley - The New York Times
The New Jersey teen-ager who gave birth in
a bathroom stall at her senior prom was charged with murder today
after the authorities concluded that she had delivered a healthy
boy, cut the umbilical cord, choked him and put him in a plastic
bag that she knotted and threw away.
The woman, Melissa Drexler, 18, of Forked
River, was charged after an autopsy determined she had choked the
baby and smothered him either with her hands or with the plastic
bag, said John Kaye, the Monmouth County Prosecutor.
In the midst of it, Mr. Kaye said today, a
girlfriend who had heard sounds from the bathroom stall asked Miss
Drexler if she felt ill. The Prosecutor said she replied: ''I'll
be done pretty soon. Go tell the boys we'll be right out.''
A few minutes later, leaving blood on the floor
of the bathroom stall, Miss Drexler went to the dance floor with
her boyfriend and prom date, John Lewis, ate a salad and danced
The case -- which recalled that of another New
Jersey teen-ager, Amy Grossberg, and her boyfriend, Brian
Peterson, who were charged with killing their newborn son in a
motel and discarding his body -- stunned Miss Drexler's friends
and relatives and attracted headlines across the country. Those
who knew her said they had no idea the high school senior was
In her hometown in southern New Jersey, there
was little sympathy for Miss Drexler. Most people agreed with the
sentiments of Michelle Donally, a 20-year-old neighbor, who said,
''My heart goes out to her parents, but not to her.''
On June 6, the night of the prom, Miss Drexler
initially denied giving birth when teachers came up to her and
others who had been in the women's bathroom to ask about the blood
in the bathroom stall.
Miss Drexler replied that she was having a
heavy menstrual flow, Mr. Kaye said.
A few minutes later, after the baby's body had
been found in an outside trash bin at the prom site, the Garden
Manor in Aberdeen, Miss Drexler told teachers she had given birth.
Mr. Kaye said Dr. Jay Peacock, an assistant
county medical examiner, had established the cause of death as
''asphyxia due to manual strangulation and obstruction of the
external airway orifices.''
Dr. Peacock was unable to determine if the baby
was dead or alive when he was placed inside the bag and a knot was
tied at the top of the bag, Mr. Kaye said.
''We are certain the baby was alive after it
was born,'' Mr. Kaye said. ''When it ceased to be alive, we cannot
Besides the murder charge, which carries a
sentence of 30 years to life, Miss Drexler was accused of
endangering the welfare of a child, a second-degree crime in New
Jersey with a penalty of 5 to 10 years.
Mr. Kaye dismissed suggestions that the
endangering charge was a fall-back position for his office, and
said it would be merged with the murder charge when the case was
presented to a Monmouth County grand jury in about a month.
Mr. Kaye said it was unlikely that his office
would seek the death penalty, because of Miss Drexler's age, her
lack of a criminal record and what he called ''the stress and
extreme emotional disturbance'' of the birth.
In early afternoon today, Miss Drexler, a
senior at Lacey Township High School, made a five-minute
appearance in State Superior Court and was released on a $50,000
property bond by Judge John Ricciardi. She said little as the
judge explained her legal rights.
After Miss Drexler left the courthouse with her
father, her lawyer, Steven Secare, said his client was not guilty.
He declined further comment because, he said,
his own investigation was not yet complete. He said Dr. Michael
Baden, a forensic pathologist in New York, had conducted a
separate autopsy on the baby's body at the request of the Drexler
family. In addition, he said, a Pennsylvania psychiatrist, Dr.
Robert Sadoff, had examined Miss Drexler. Mr. Secare said he is
awaiting both reports.
Dr. Baden said in an interview later today that
''the autopsy findings are ambiguous as to whether the baby was
alive, because of all the resuscitation that was performed.''
The resuscitation efforts caused changes in the
baby's body, he said, and the birth process might have caused
additional changes. ''It's a very difficult type of death to
determine, whether a baby was born alive or not,'' Dr. Baden said.
Miss Drexler, an only child, arrived home with
her parents shortly before 4 P.M. A crowd of reporters, some with
television cameras, on the otherwise quiet street of neat ranch
houses called out to her. But Miss Drexler, wearing a sun dress
and dark glasses, merely threw her hands in the air, then went
inside, bending down to pet her dog on the way.
At a news conference this morning, Mr. Kaye
said Dr. Peacock was satisfied that the baby was alive and
breathing after the birth because Dr. Peacock had found air in the
baby's lungs and intestines.
''The doctor says this is a very significant
finding, amongst others,'' Mr. Kaye said of the air in the
intestines. The Prosecutor said the medical findings were critical
to the state's case, because investigators had not found any
witnesses who saw the birth, heard any screams from Miss Drexler
or cries from the baby, or saw who placed the bag containing the
baby in the bathroom's trash receptacle nine feet from the stall
where the birth occurred.
Mr. Kaye said he was convinced that only Miss
Drexler knew of her pregnancy. He said the baby was born at full
term, without any congenital defects or deformities.
While driving to the Garden Manor with her
boyfriend and another couple, Ms. Drexler complained of stomach
cramps, the Prosecutor said. He said she went to the bathroom at
the catering hall as soon as they reached it about 7 or 7:30 P.M.
and gave birth almost immediately, 20 minutes after she had
complained of the cramps in the car.
''She got no assistance,'' Mr. Kaye said of the
birth. ''She did this herself.''
A girlfriend was in the bathroom during some of
the time Miss Drexler was in the stall, heard sounds of scraping
metal and saw Miss Drexler trying to wipe her foot across blood on
the tile floor, Mr. Kaye said.
Exactly how the child's umbilical cord was cut
is uncertain, the Prosecutor said. But he said the authorities
suspect that Miss Drexler dislodged a metal container for sanitary
napkins from a wall in the stall and severed the cord with the
container's serrated edge. He said the cut in the umbilical cord
The authorities suspect that the scraping
noises the friend overheard were caused by Miss Drexler's removing
the napkin container.
After Miss Drexler and her friend left the
bathroom, a matron cleaned the bloody stall, placed soiled towels
in a plastic bag in the bathroom's trash receptacle and took the
bag to an outside trash bin. As she carried it, she noticed that
it was heavy and called a maintenance worker. He looked inside the
bag and found the knotted bag containing the baby's body.
If the matron had not been curious about the
bag's weight, Mr. Kaye said, the body might never have been found.
''No one knew this woman was having a baby,''