2 plead guilty in Gosnell abortions case

Sherry West
Sherry West
Posted: October 28, 2011

Two women who worked for doctor Kermit Gosnell pleaded guilty Thursday to third-degree murder in connection with deaths at his West Philadelphia abortion clinic, called a "baby charnel house" by prosecutors.

Adrienne Moton, 34, of Upper Darby, admitted to killing a baby delivered alive. Sherry West, 52, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty in the death of a 41-year-old immigrant who was given a lethal overdose of painkillers and anesthesia.

The two women also pleaded guilty to related charges, including taking part in a corrupt organization.

Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner set sentencing for December. While emphasizing that he has discretion, he said the maximum sentence was 120 years for Moton's offenses and 140 years for West's.

Their pleas are only a small chapter in a lurid story that has made international headlines since Gosnell and nine employees - including his wife, Pearl - were arrested in January, almost a year after authorities raided and shut down his Lancaster Avenue facility. They found a filthy, poorly equipped labyrinth littered with bags and jars of fetal remains.

The doctor, 70, is in jail, charged with eight counts of murder in the deaths of the woman and seven babies. Seven employees, charged with various offenses, are awaiting a joint trial with him.

Moton, who took part in Thursday's hearing via a video feed from prison, added a bit of drama to the otherwise-straightforward proceedings. Asked by Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore whether she was admitting to having killed "a live baby," Moton hesitated and asked to speak with her lawyer, Thomas McGill.

The courtroom was emptied while they conferred. Fifteen minutes later, the hearing resumed. Moton replied: "Yes, your honor," when the judge asked if she was pleading guilty to murdering a newborn referred to as "Baby D" in the grand jury's investigative report.

That 260-page report, released in January, said that Moton and West - like the rest of Gosnell's medical staff - were not formally trained or licensed for their jobs.

Moton, who knew Gosnell through his niece, assisted with abortions and followed Gosnell's practice of using scissors to cut the spinal cords of late-term fetuses, the report said.

Like many newborns, Baby D was delivered by a woman who spent hours in labor over a toilet, one of Moton's coworkers, Kareema Cross, told the grand jury.

"The baby was moving and looked like it was swimming," said Cross, who was not charged. "Moton reached into the toilet, got the baby out, and cut its neck."

West, who had been one of Gosnell's family-practice patients for 35 years, was hired in October 2008. She had lost her job at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center "after being diagnosed with hepatitis C," the report said.

It alleged that she did ultrasound examinations, administered anesthesia, and monitored women in the recovery room - all without wearing gloves to protect patients from exposure to hepatitis C.

The woman who died at the clinic, Karnamaya Mongar, had come to the United States from a refugee camp in Nepal only four months earlier. After she was overdosed with sedatives and lost consciousness, she spent more than three hours in the recovery room before an ambulance was called, the grand jury concluded.

Then, it took the paramedics 20 minutes to maneuver a stretcher through the narrow, cluttered hallways and a padlocked emergency door.

The medical examiner ruled Mongar's death a homicide, Pescatore, the prosecutor, said Thursday in court.

After the proceeding, West's court-appointed lawyer, Michael Wallace, said she "quite possibly" may testify against Gosnell.

"She was in need of money" when she took the job, Wallace said. "I think she probably didn't realize the significance of what she was doing."

Contact staff writer Marie McCullough at 215-854-2720 or mmccullough@phillynews.com.


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