WILMINGTON, Del. — A day before her 20th birthday, Amy Grossberg and her former sweetheart, Brian Peterson, were sentenced to short prison terms Thursday for killing their newborn son, whose body was dumped in a motel trash bin.
Grossberg sobbed and shook as she told the judge she blamed "nobody but herself" for the baby's death. She told her parents she loves them as she was led crying from the courtroom to begin serving her 2 1/2-year sentence.
The baby's father, Brian Peterson, 20, received a lesser sentence of two years because he cooperated with prosecutors and tried to persuade Grossberg to seek medical help before she gave birth, Judge Henry duPont Ridgely said. That advice was "flatly refused" by Grossberg, the judge said.
Grossberg gave birth in a motel in Newark on Nov. 12, 1996, after keeping her pregnancy secret from her family and friends. Peterson put the newborn in a garbage bag and threw it in a trash bin behind the motel. The two said they thought the child was dead at birth.
Both were initially charged with first-degree murder, and prosecutors had suggested it could be a death penalty case. But in March, Peterson pleaded guilty to manslaughter and agreed to testify against his girlfriend. A month later, Grossberg pleaded guilty too.
They could have gotten 10 years each, though sentencing guidelines suggest 2 1/2.
"I'm extremely sorry for what happened to my baby. I blame nobody but myself," Grossberg said. "It's something I'll never be able to forget. That pain inside will be with me for the rest of my life."
Peterson told the judge: "Mistakes were made that cost my son's life, and all I can say is I'm so sorry for what happened."
The two former lovers, seated across the crowded courtroom from each other during the sentencing, did not look at or speak to each other.
The two have spent more than a year under house arrest at their parents' homes in Wyckoff, N.J., a well-to-do New York City suburb. At the time of the baby's death, she was a freshman at the University of Delaware in Newark; he was attending Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.
Grossberg's lawyers complained she should have received the same treatment as Peterson.
If they receive credit in prison for good behavior and participate in education and work programs, Peterson could be out in fewer than 18 months and Grossberg could be released in fewer than 23.
Both will also serve two years' probation and perform 300 hours of community service. Grossberg also will counsel pregnant women to help them avoid the mistakes she made, her lawyers said.
While prosecutors praised Peterson for his cooperation, they also said he followed Grossberg's demands to get rid of the baby by throwing him in the trash.
Prosecutor Peter Letang said Peterson told them he heard the bag smack against the back of the trash bin, possibly accounting for the skull fractures listed as a cause of death. The baby also died of exposure and lack of oxygen, he said.
"The call has got to go out to the Brian Petersons of this world to stand up before the baby is born," Letang said.
Grossberg's attorney, Robert Tanenbaum, said she routinely visits the cemetery where the child is buried and weeps over the grave.
"I can tell you she lives in agony," he said. "Keep in mind, she was an 18-year-old and made a terrible mistake. And she's paying the price for the rest of her life."