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Father Pleads Guilty to Killing Baby Born to Surrogate Mother

August 08, 1995| From Associated Press

EASTON, Pa. — A bachelor who paid $30,000 to have a baby by a surrogate mother pleaded guilty Monday to beating and shaking his 5-week-old son to death to stop him from crying.

James Alan Austin, a 26-year-old bank analyst, could get up to 25 years in prison for third-degree murder and endangering the welfare of the infant. Sentencing was set for Sept. 28.

Austin wiped away tears as he stood before Common Pleas Judge Jack A. Panella in handcuffs and ankle shackles.

"Because I caused the death of my son," Austin replied softly when the judge asked him why he pleaded guilty.

The case left ethicists blaming the largely unregulated business of surrogacy, and industry officials wondering how a single, fertile young man was granted a child by a method that many couples see as a last resort.

Austin paid the Infertility Center of America in Indianapolis to inseminate Phyllis Ann Huddleston of Lafayette, Ind., with his sperm. Jonathan was born Dec. 8. Austin took the boy home the next day.

The baby was hospitalized a month later with a fractured skull and internal head injures. Austin acknowledged beating the child and hitting him with a plastic coat hanger to stop his crying.

The baby died Jan. 17 after Huddleston agreed to let doctors shut off his respirator.

"I think he understood that he was hurting the child," defense attorney John Waldron said, "but I think it was a moment where he lost control.

Waldron had argued that the Infertility Center failed by not teaching Austin parenting skills.

But Karen Synesiou, director of the Center for Surrogate Parenting in Beverly Hills, said it is wrong to blame an agency for not providing parental training.

Austin "was intelligent enough to find the agency and sign all the contracts," Synesiou said. "It was his responsibility to take the next step. He could have gone to any hospital and joined a parenting class."

Huddleston is suing Austin and the center, saying Austin was ill-prepared to father a child.

Waldron said Austin wanted to become a father because several relatives and friends had children, and he loved youngsters.

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