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Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (14) - Infanticide
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 19, 2012
Date of arrest: 3 days after
Date of birth: 1997
Victim profile: Her newborn son
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Lakeland, Polk County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to 18 months in a maximum security facility for juveniles on December 19, 2012
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Cassidy Goodson, Lakeland teen who strangled her newborn, gets 18 months in plea deal

By Eric Glasser -

December 19, 2012

Bartow, Florida -- Eighteen months for murdering her infant son.

That's the sentence Wednesday for the Lakeland teenager who hid her pregnancy and then choked her newborn son to death in September. If she plays her cards right, Cassidy Goodson could be out in time to graduate from High school.

It's a rare case where everyone seemed to be in agreement.

The facts of the case are horrible: a newborn's life taken violently. But had Cassidy been convicted of murder and sent to prison, prosecutors, her defense attorney and ultimately the judge all agreed it would simply have been a second life lost.

They all say that in this case, Cassidy, now 15, deserved a second chance.

Cassidy went into labor on September 19 in a bathroom at her home, took a pair of scissors to "pry the baby out," and delivered the child alive and into the toilet.

Investigators say Cassidy lifted the moving infant from the toilet, felt for a pulse, found one, then placed her hands around the infant's neck and squeezed until he wasn't moving or breathing any longer. She took the infant's pulse again and found none.

Detectives add that Cassidy cleaned up the bathroom, bathed herself and the dead infant before placing him in a shoebox along with soiled towels and clothing.

The girl's mother did take her to Lakeland Regional Medical Center that day after seeing a mess in the bathroom, and the teen claimed she miscarried.

The mother found the baby's body in a shoebox three days later. The baby was a full term, 9.5 pound boy. Cassidy weighs 100 lbs.

Cassidy said she hid the pregnancy from her parents, but family members had told her mother they thought the teen may be pregnant. 

She was arrested for first degree murder, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter.

With the teenager's family looking on, Judge Donald Jacobsen said he was satisfied that Cassidy -- a student with no criminal past -- was unlikely to pose a threat to anyone else.

He said she was "immature" and on Wednesday sentenced Cassidy to at least 18 months in a maximum security facility for juveniles. It'll most likely be the Hillsborough Girls Academy.

"Everybody cared about a young girl who had never been in any trouble before in her life and has a tremendous amount of potential... and no one wanted to throw that potential away," said Howardene Garrett, Cassidy's defense lawyer.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd -- whose department first investigated the case and recorded Cassidy's chilling re-enactment and confession -- agreed with the decision to reach a plea deal, but withheld comment on the length of the sentence.

"The murderer is 14, and so there has to be a penalty to pay. There has to be. But the challenge is to make sure that she's not back in the criminal justice system for something else, because there won't be another chance," said Sheriff Judd.

If Cassidy completes her program without incident, she'll appear before the judge again in 18 months. At that time, she could be placed on probation and set free.

However, if she violates the terms of her release, she could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison as an adult.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Cassidy's grandfather, Richard Goodson said he wanted to thank the community for its prayers.

"She's a good girl," he said. "She just made a terrible mistake."


Cassidy Goodson, 14-Year-Old Mom, Describes Killing Her Newborn In Video Reenactment

November 18, 2012

A police interrogation video shows a high school freshman calmly demonstrating how she strangled her newborn son to death in September, WFTS reported.

Cassidy Goodson, 14, is charged with first-degree murder as an adult for allegedly killing the baby moments after she secretly gave birth in her parents' bathroom.

Florida prosecutors released a batch of evidence on Thursday, including the footage of Goodson using a Santa Claus doll to show how she squeezed the life out of her son before hiding him in a shoebox, ABC News reported.

"Its eyes weren’t open but I felt to see if it was breathing or not, and (it was breathing) so I put my hands around its throat to make it stop breathing," Goodson told investigators.

"I wanted it to stop breathing so I wouldn't get in trouble," she said, according to the Ledger.

It took about one minute for her child's breath to cease, Goodson said.

In addition to the premeditated murder charge, the Polk County Sheriff's office lists one count of aggravated child abuse. If convicted, Goodson could spend life in prison.

Her public defender declined to comment about the evidence to the Ledger.

In the video recorded in her mobile home in Bartow, Goodson explained that she feared disappointing her parents, so she concealed her pregnancy by wearing baggy clothing. She also showed her mother fake pregnancy tests with negative results to fool her.

Police said Goodson used scissors during labor to pry out the baby. Three days after Goodson gave birth, her mother called police to report that she'd found a dead newborn in a shoebox in her daughter's bedroom. A strange odor led her mother to investigate.

Detectives questioned Teresa Goodson about how she didn't know her daughter was expecting a child.

Upon questioning from detectives, Teresa Goodson said she thought her daughter was "just getting fat and gaining weight,"according to the Ledger. "Honestly, if I would have known, this would have never happened."


Teen Suspected of Killing Newborn Indicted as Adult

Newborn son was found dead, body hidden in 14-year-old's bedroom

By Jason Geary -

October 4, 2013

Fourteen-year-old Cassidy Goodson, who authorities say secretly gave birth to a son and then strangled the newborn, will be prosecuted as an adult.

A grand jury indicted the Lakeland girl on Thursday on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.

Goodson was arrested last week after deputies say she gave birth on Sept. 19 to a 9.5-pound boy inside a bathroom then strangled him.

The indictment does not identify the baby by any name but simply uses the words "Baby Goodson" to describe him.

If Cassidy Goodson had remained charged in the juvenile system, the maximum length of supervision she could be monitored would be until her 22nd birthday.

In Florida's adult criminal justice system, the maximum penalty for first-degree murder is usually a mandatory life sentence or the death penalty.

Goodson's young age prevents her from facing the death penalty.

In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that it was unconstitutional for juveniles convicted of murder to receive mandatory life imprisonment without parole. The decision specifically addressed "mandatory" life sentences for juveniles but doesn't appear to rule out such punishment on a case-by-case basis.

In an interview, State Attorney Jerry Hill said he didn't know what an appropriate sentence should be in the case.

"Legally speaking, it's possible that it's a life case," he said. "Practically speaking and what is the just thing to do, that will be determined as we learn more about it."

Hill said the decision to charge the girl as an adult wasn't taken lightly.

"The decision was fact driven," he said. "I think the facts demand first-degree murder charges."

When asked if prosecuting the girl as an adult was harsh or heavy-handed, Hill said the case hasn't been resolved yet, and it's too early to know how it will end.

"I don't want to suggest that I know the outcome of that," Hill said. "But first-degree murder is the appropriate charge. We will have a great deal of latitude as we move forward and more facts come to light."

Goodson's lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Howardene Garrett, did not want to comment for this article.

Many questions remain in the case.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has previously said the investigation continues, but it appears the baby's father is a juvenile, meaning someone younger than 18.

An affidavit of the Polk County Sheriff's Office provides the following account:

The girl told investigators that she went into the bathroom and used a pair of scissors to pry the baby out.

"Cassidy stated she felt for a pulse, which was present, and observed the child move," the affidavit states. "Cassidy advised she placed her hands around the neck of the child and choked it for approximately one minute, to stop the child from breathing."

The girl cleaned herself and the baby's body before hiding the body.

The girl's mother, Teresa Goodson, later saw blood around the bathroom toilet and took Cassidy to the hospital. The girl told her mother that she had a miscarriage and flushed the fetus down the toilet without looking.

The miscarriage was reported to investigators for the Polk County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Children & Families.

Three days later, Teresa Goodson reported finding the baby after going into her daughter's bedroom to collect dirty laundry. She told investigators that she noticed a foul odor coming from a storage stool. Inside, she discovered a plastic bag with the baby stuffed underneath some wet clothing.

An autopsy found that the child was a full-term infant and was alive and breathing prior to death.

Polk County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Nelson noted there were severe head injuries consistent with the child being struck repeatedly with scissors as well as signs of strangulation.


Mom: Teen Didn't Know of Pregnancy

By Rick Rousos -

October 3, 2012

The mother of a 14-year-old girl charged with killing her newborn son said Wednesday neither she nor her daughter knew the girl was pregnant.

"I know she had a period every month and she did not gain a lot of weight," Teresa Goodson said.

Donna Goodson, the girl's paternal grandmother, said Cassidy Goodson told her after the baby's death that, "If I knew I was pregnant, it would have been different."

The two defended Cassidy Goodson at their North Lakeland home where the teen's bedroom has not been touched since she was arrested last week.

A change of clothes lay on top of the 14-year-old's dresser next to bottles of the acne treatment Proactiv. Family photos, softball trophies and a bottle of hair glitter line her small room.

It's the same place where the Polk County Sheriff's Office said the teen left her dead son in a shoe box covered by a pile of dirty clothes.

Teresa Goodson, 42, found the dead infant on Sept. 22 and called authorities.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office said Cassidy Goodson knew she was pregnant and concealed it by wearing baggy clothing.

According to the arrest affidavit, she delivered her child by herself Sept. 19 in the bathroom of the mobile home where she lives with her family. While her son was still connected to the umbilical cord, deputies say Cassidy Goodson choked the infant to death.

According to her arrest affidavit, Goodson is 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 100 pounds. Her mother said she weighs more than 100 pounds but wasn't sure exactly how much she weighs.

Cassidy Goodson was charged last week with murder and aggravated child abuse. Prosecutors have not decided whether she will be charged as an adult.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Wednesday his detectives are still investigating, but it appears the baby's father is a juvenile, meaning someone younger than 18.

Judd said investigators continue trying to determine whether there is any criminal culpability involving Cassidy Goodson's family or the baby's father.

"Everything we have so far leads us to believe it was another child" who is the father of the baby, Judd said. He said investigators have answered some questions, but may never get definitive answers to other questions.

Teresa Goodson said that her daughter has never been in any serious trouble. She said the 14-year-old spent the summer playing softball for a local league; she regularly prepared dinner for the family; and she attended church.

"She was a great child," Teresa Goodson said.

In August, Cassidy Goodson started her freshman year at Kathleen High School.

"Something had to have snapped," Donna Goodson, 69, said.

Teresa Goodson said she had talked to her daughter about sex, but didn't think her daughter was sexually active.

She said she knew her daughter menstruated because "I washed out her clothes every week."

She said she had no idea why her daughter reacted the way she did when she delivered the child.

"She's a 14-year-old kid and she has a child's mind," she said.

Cassidy Goodson told detectives she concealed the pregnancy and killed her son because she was afraid her relationship with her parents would change, according to an arrest affidavit.

The girl's aunts told deputies that they had expressed concerns about Cassidy Goodson possibly being pregnant, deputies said.

Teresa Goodson said one of her sisters approached her and told her that there were rumors Cassidy Goodson was pregnant.

Cassidy Goodson took two pregnancy tests, but "the tests gave no response," according to the arrest affidavit. Teresa Goodson wouldn't specify when the tests were taken. She said she told her daughter to take tests to quash the pregnancy rumors.

Teresa Goodson said she left Cassidy Goodson in the bathroom by herself to do the testing "because I trusted my daughter."

A spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner's Office said the baby's body is still at the Winter Haven facility while the family makes arrangements for a funeral.

On Wednesday afternoon, Teresa Goodson and Donna Goodson were getting ready to visit Cassidy Goodson. Teresa Goodson said they try to stay positive and avoid talking about the tragedy.



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