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Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Infanticide
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 12, 1996
Date of arrest: 5 days after
Date of birth: 1978
Victim profile: Her newborn baby
Method of murder: Blunt-force head trauma and shaking
Location: Newark, New Castle County, Delaware, USA
Status: Sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison on July 9, 1998
photo gallery

Amy S. Grossberg (born 1978) delivered a baby at a Comfort Inn in Newark, Delaware, in November 1996, assisted only by her then-boyfriend Brian C. Peterson, who later threw the baby into a dumpster. In March 1998, Peterson pled guilty to manslaughter and served a two-year sentence; on April 22, 1998, Grossberg agreed to a plea bargain, and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison on July 9, 1998.

Pregnancy and birth

Grossberg and Peterson dated while at Ramapo High School, growing up in the affluent suburb of Wyckoff, New Jersey. Amy successfully hid the pregnancy from her parents, wanting mostly to shield it from her mother. Grossberg wore baggy clothes and avoided her parents for the course of the nine months. In September, she enrolled as a freshman at the University of Delaware, while Peterson enrolled at college in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

In November 1996, the eighteen-year-old's water broke. Peterson drove three hours from his college to hers, and checked them into the Comfort Inn in Newark, Delaware. Grossberg delivered the unnamed child on November 12. Conflicting stories have made the subsequent events a mystery to anyone except the couple, but Peterson and Grossberg claim they believed the infant to be stillborn, wrapped him in a garbage bag, and disposed of him in a dumpster.


The bloody sheets were discovered by a cleaning woman, who immediately contacted police. After returning to school, Grossberg began to have severe seizures as a result of not having expelled the placenta. She was taken to a hospital, and it was clear to the doctors that she had just given birth. Not long after, police officials and the hospital put the two incidents together. K-9 Police dogs found the body in the dumpster.

The couple’s initial claim that the child was stillborn was quickly rejected. An autopsy indicated that the infant was delivered alive and that the cause of death was several head fractures and Shaken Baby Syndrome. The cause of the injuries was inconclusive. The D.A. announced that he would charge the couple with first degree murder and pursue the death penalty against them. Peterson and Grossberg, who at first seemed to remain a loving couple, turned on each other and each began blaming the other. In December 1996 they were indicted for the murder. Peterson stated emphatically that Grossberg told him to “get rid of it!”; Grossberg claimed that Peterson acted alone in putting the boy into the dumpster.

In March 1998, Peterson pled guilty to manslaughter in exchange for his testimony against Grossberg at her trial. In addition to his initial claims, he stated that he tried to get Amy to a hospital, but she refused. When Grossberg heard Peterson's statement in detail, she agreed to a plea bargain, on April 22, 1998. She admitted to unintentionally causing the death of the infant and said that she and Peterson never planned to kill the baby. A concern of attorneys for both defendants regarding going to trial was that the pictures of the baby's head would be displayed in court and lead to more severe penalties. (It was noted on Court TV that such pictures could not be shown on television.)

While Peterson was sentenced to two years, Grossberg was held to be more responsible and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years.


Brian Peterson went on to get married and now lives in Florida. Amy Grossberg started a high end greeting card business with her parents.

Media portrayals

These events were depicted in a non-fiction crime book by journalist Doug Most, who covered the case for The Bergen Record of Hackensack, New Jersey for more than two years. The book was called Always in Our Hearts: The Story of Amy Grossberg, Brian Peterson, The Pregnancy they Hid and the Child they Killed. The book traces the story from their high school days in New Jersey through the pregnancy and secret delivery in the motel room, to the court hearings and ultimately the sentencing. Of the book, Kirkus Reviews called it a "true crime page turner" and Booklist said, "Teens will be drawn to this examination of a horrific crime committed by two bright college students."

Peterson and Grossberg's story was fictionalized by writer T. Coraghessan Boyle in a story, "The Love of My Life", which appeared in his collection of short stories, After The Plague. After learning of the story in the media, Boyle became curious as to how a couple could commit such an act, and explored their points of view through a fictionalized account of the case, changing certain details such as the characters' names and the gender of the infant.

Law & Order also devoted a story to this case in Season 8, Episode 2, "Denial." In the episode, the two teens are acquitted. The Practice and Homicide: Life on the Street also did episodes based on this case.


Amy Grossberg Released

Early From Prison Good Behavior And Program Participation Were Factors. She Pleaded Guilty To The Manslaughter Of Her Newborn

By Bill Ordine and Brendan Janury -

May 11, 2000

NEW CASTLE, Del. — Amy Grossberg, the onetime University of Delaware student whose infant son was found dead in a motel trash bin, was released from prison yesterday after serving two years of a 30-month sentence for manslaughter.

Officials said she was released early from the Baylor Women's Correctional Institution for good behavior and because she had participated in prison education programs.

Grossberg said nothing to reporters when she left the New Castle prison or when she arrived at her home in a Bergen County suburb. Her lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, handed reporters a note handwritten and signed by Grossberg.

Gottlieb declined to answer questions but said Grossberg planned to continue her education.

Grossberg, 21, of Wykoff, N.J., gave birth to the baby in a Newark, Del., motel room in November 1996, when she and boyfriend Brian Peterson were college freshmen. Peterson, now 21, admitted putting the baby in the trash bin, where it was found dead.

The two said they believed the infant had been stillborn; medical examinations showed that the baby had suffered skull fractures.

The story of the two teenagers from upper-middle-class Wykoff attracted national attention when prosecutors suggested at first that they would ask for the death penalty.

During early court appearances, the teenagers held hands; that closeness faded when defense strategies pitted the former lovers against each other.

Grossberg and Peterson pleaded guilty to manslaughter in July 1998. Peterson, who was attending Gettysburg College when the baby was born, was released from prison in January after serving 20 months of a 24-month sentence. He received a shorter sentence than Grossberg because he had agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Grossberg and Peterson no longer see each other, lawyers have said.

Grossberg must complete a 5 1/2-month parole, serve two years' probation, and perform 300 hours of community service in New Jersey.

Beth Welch, a spokeswoman for the Delaware Department of Correction, said that Grossberg was a model prisoner and had earned 21 college credits, mostly in computer classes, while in prison.

"She was behaved, she did not get any write-ups, she obeyed all the rules and regulations," Welch said. "She participated in all the programs she was supposed to and took some others on her own."

Along with the academic courses, Grossberg took classes in life skills and decision-making and worked as a janitor, mopping floors and washing windows, Welch said.

When Grossberg arrived at the prison, she was held in protective isolation, Welch said, because prison officials worried that the teenager might be the target of other inmates who would resent the nature of her crime. Once authorities were convinced Grossberg was not in danger, she was moved into the general population.

When Peterson was released in January, he also issued a statement in which he said he was sorry for what he called his "part in the tragic events that occurred three years ago."


Death In A Dumpster

December 1, 1996

AMY GROSSBERG WENT INTO labor just after midnight. She was in her freshman dorm room at the University of Delaware, in pain and terrified. She couldn't go to the hospital. Only 18, she had spent the last nine months hiding her pregnancy from her well-to-do parents, perhaps afraid to shatter their suburb- perfect image of their lovely, artistic daughter. So she called the baby's father, Brian Peterson Jr., also 18, at his college in Gettysburg, Pa. He arrived three hours later in his black Toyota Celica, took her to a nearby Comfort Inn motel and paid $52 for Room 220. What happened next is equal parts mystery and tragedy.

Police say a healthy baby boy--20 inches long; 6 pounds, 2 ounces--was born toward morning. Brian told the authorities that he put the child in a plastic bag and deposited him in the motel Dumpster. The students returned to their colleges--stopping at a carwash, perhaps to clean up the Celica's interior--and hoped that their gilded, carefree lives would go on as if nothing had happened. But something had. The next day, police say, they found the infant--shaken to death and with his skull and brain crushed. Amy and Brian were charged with murder. If they're convicted, the Delaware attorney general says she will ask for the death penalty.

Such grisly crimes aren't entirely uncommon. Last week a cleaning woman at a movie theater in New York's Long Island found an hours-old boy asphyxiated in a toilet. FBI statistics show that 207 children younger than a week were murdered in 1994, a 92 percent increase since 1973. There is a pattern to these deaths. The parents are usually young and poor; the mother frequently acts alone. But Grossberg and Peterson don't fit the profile, which is one reason their families--and suburban parents around the country--are so shaken. Both Grossberg and Peterson come from wealthy, stable homes. Friends describe them as ""good'' kids. They had access to abortion clinics, adoption agencies and counseling to handle an unwanted child. ""They were two wealthy kids who had so many options in life,'' Constantine Maroulis, a Grossberg family friend, told NEWSWEEK. Seeking out an abortion, or putting the baby up for adoption, perhaps seemed too risky to the teens: their families could somehow find out. The fear that this child would cost Grossberg and Peterson their privileged lives--and disappoint the people who had made their comfortable worlds possible--may have led the too-young parents into a spiral of fatal decisions.

They met at Ramapo Regional High School in Franklin Lakes, N.J., an affluent suburb of golf courses and million-dollar houses 20 miles northwest of New York City. Theirs was a classic teenage courtship--the proms, the glowing yearbook photos--in a town where everything was above average. She excelled at art and French. He was a jock: captain of the golf team, cocaptain of the soccer squad. Both kids grew up in new-money suburban manses and drove their own cars (hers was a white Cherokee). Grossberg's father owns a large furniture business; her mother is an interior designer. Peterson's mother and stepfather run a successful video-rental business. Walking the halls at Ramapo, the popular couple seemed an ideal match. ""It was probably about as serious as a teenage relationship gets,'' Amy Lucibello, who worked for a summer with Grossberg at the Market Basket gourmet-food store, told NEWSWEEK.

When they left for college late last summer, Grossberg was six months pregnant. Peterson made the three-hour trip from Gettysburg College to Delaware every other weekend; she visited him once. Though Grossberg--who is just over five feet tall and wears size-1 pants--somehow managed to hide her pregnancy from friends and family at home, she made no secret of her condition at school. ""She wore tight shirts--she didn't hide it,'' says Seth Chorba, 18, who lived on the same floor of Thompson Hall as Grossberg. ""Nobody approached her because we kind of respected her privacy.'' Students who met them at both schools say Grossberg and Peterson seemed perfectly well adjusted. There are no reports of missed classes or other signs of stress. The only potential trouble came when Grossberg's mother, Sonye, said she planned to go to Delaware for homecoming last month. Her daughter told her she'd be away visiting friends. Perhaps Amy--in her eighth month of pregnancy--couldn't face her.

When her water broke in her dorm at about 12:45 a.m. on Nov. 12, Grossberg apparently wasn't sure what was happening. According to police reports, she called Peterson and said ""her stomach was bothering her and she might be in labor.'' After he picked her up, they drove past several cheap motels along the highway before deciding on the Comfort Inn. They checked in at 3:10 a.m. About an hour later, Grossberg gave birth. Around 5 a.m., they checked out and returned to her dorm room, where the couple slept for a few hours before Peterson drove back to Gettysburg. The only evidence left of their ordeal lay wrapped in a gray plastic bag in the Dumpster behind the motel.

They almost got away with it. Grossberg's dormmates didn't notice anything about her demeanor or body that indicated she had given birth. ""There was really no change. It was the same Amy,'' Chorba says. But later that day, at about 5 p.m., Grossberg began to complain of stomach pain and slumped to the floor of her dorm. She had turned very pale and blood was seeping into her pants. Her roommate went running down the hall for help. Someone called an ambulance. When Grossberg arrived at Christiana Hospital in Wilmington, doctors discovered that the baby's placenta had not passed through her uterus during delivery, which caused complications. She finally broke down and told doctors about the motel birth--and her boyfriend's role in disposing of the baby. Police in Delaware and Pennsylvania began to investigate. They found damp and bloody sheets, clothes and sanitary napkins in Amy's room.

By then, Peterson had also begun to snap. Just hours after returning to his Gettysburg campus, he confided to a student-residence counselor that he had helped his girlfriend give birth and they had ""gotten rid'' of the child, according to police. Investigators found a bag of bloody sheets in his dorm as well. In his car was a receipt from the White Glove Car Wash stamped with the time 11:28 a.m., about seven hours after the baby was born. Pennsylvania officials held Peterson on misdemeanor charges of concealing the death of a baby, but they were forced to release him because the alleged crime occurred in another state and they had no evidence to hold him. Peterson promptly disappeared.

Meanwhile, police in Delaware had discovered the baby's corpse. An autopsy completed a few days later showed that he had died of ""multiple skull fractures, with injury to the brain, blunt-force head trauma and shaking,'' according to the official report. As she was released after five days in the hospital, police arrested Grossberg--looking pale and eerie in a hooded sweat shirt--and charged her with first-degree murder. The Delaware attorney general, M. Jane Brady, announced that because the victim was younger than 14, the state planned to seek the death penalty against both teens.

Facing the prospect of death, Peterson went deeper into hiding. A national manhunt, headed by the FBI, mobilized the media. While the New York tabloids screamed HOW COULD THEY?, friends and neighbors defended the couple. ""She was the sweetest girl you ever met. It's like Barbie getting busted,'' Maroulis said. Peterson's lawyer, Joseph Hurley, tried to soften his client's baby-killer image in the face of a potential death sentence by announcing that Peterson wasn't fleeing; he was in seclusion with his mother, Barbara Zuchowski. True, the family had considered secreting him to a country without an extradition treaty with the United States. ""How can I give my only born child to the state to die?'' Hurley reported Zuchowski as saying. But with the Feds threatening to step up their search, Peterson's family realized he would have to turn himself in.

The night before surrendering, Peterson and his family moved to an undisclosed hotel in the Wilmington area. The young fugitive spent the evening praying, Hurley said. At 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Hurley, Peterson and his parents drove from the hotel to a Wilmington street corner two blocks from the local FBI office. The blue-eyed teen wore a baseball cap, blue jeans, T shirt--the antithesis of a rich boy's jacket and tie. Worried about death threats, Peterson also sported a bulletproof vest, a loan from the FBI. As the family moved slowly through a mass of about 50 pushing, shouting reporters, Peterson's mother clung tightly to his arm. She sobbed as someone yelled, ""Baby killer!'' As they arrived at the courthouse, she wailed, ""I want to go with him!'' Inside, Peterson said just one word--""yes''--as the judge asked him to confirm his name. When asked how his client would plead, Hurley responded just as Grossberg's lawyer did: ""We take the position that he did not murder.''

But the defense is not taking any chances. The teens' lawyers have hired Dr. Michael Baden, a well-known forensic pathologist who testified for O. J. Simpson at his murder trial, to work as a consultant. One possible argument is that, rather than beating the baby to death, the scared young parents accidentally crushed his skull while trying to deliver their own child. That could still get a manslaughter conviction, but it avoids the death penalty. With a grand jury expected to convene this week, lawyers for both sides say they're still formulating strategy. They haven't decided whether they will seek separate trials, though Hurley started to point the finger at Grossberg last week. ""I think her concerns are the major thing that led them to where they ended up,'' he said. ""She was totally concerned with not letting Mom find out.''

Both sides will no doubt try to appeal to the jury's sympathies. Were these rich kids who callously killed so they could continue to lead worry-free, country-club lives? Or can their lawyers put their youth and upbringing in a perspective that will explain what they did? ""Time after time we see teenagers who don't fully understand the consequences,'' says James Fox, a juvenile-crime expert at Northeastern University. ""They understand cognitively that murder is wrong. But emotionally, they're immature.''

John Daley, 20, a childhood friend of Peterson's, says, ""There's a lot of pressure in a neighborhood like that, especially with the girls, to be the perfect princess. She must have built up in her mind how terrible it would be if her mother found out, how everybody would look down at her. Image is everything.'' Now Grossberg and Peterson must confront something far more terrifying than humiliation: the pros- pect of death row.



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