NEW CASTLE - A Wampum man could spend nearly four decades in prison for impregnating an underage teen four years ago and then helping kill their infant.
Christopher Lee Kennedy, 41, was sentenced Tuesday in Lawrence County Court to 18-36 years in state prison. He had pleaded guilty in June to charges of conspiracy to commit third-degree murder and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child less than 16 years old.
For the conspiracy charge, Kennedy was given a 10-20 year sentence, with a consecutive 8-16 year sentence for the IDSI charge. He was credited for 1,023 days served.
Kennedy will also undergo a sexual offender evaluation and will be a lifelong registrant on the Megan's Law list.
Once on parole, he is ordered to have no contact, direct or indirect, with the victim in the case.
More: Further details on plea deal
Recap of case
According to police reports, a then 16-year-old girl was hospitalized at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh on Oct. 23, 2017, after experiencing health problems caused by not receiving proper treatment after giving birth. She told police she gave birth to a baby on Oct. 9, 2017, in her upstairs bathroom. The minor told police the father was Kennedy, who was a family friend she had been in a relationship with since she was 13.
She said Kennedy told her they could not have the child because he would get into trouble, so he gave her chemicals in August to attempt a miscarriage. As a result of ingesting chemicals, the girl became ill upon giving birth and remained at UPMC Children's for months, according to a report.
Police reported the girl initially said she was alone at the time of the birth and strangled the child to death. However, she later admitted Kennedy was there and killed the baby. She told police they hid the body in a box in her bedroom closet.
When police searched the closet, officers said they noticed the smell immediately despite perfumes used to attempt to mask the odor. Police said they removed boxes that were stacked on a blue container and opened it to find a large black plastic bag inside that contained a safe. A baby boy's body and other items were entombed in cement inside the safe.
Victim speaks on her ordeal
There to witness the sentencing was the victim, who is now an adult, her mother, and her aunt.
County Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Miller read a statement, written by the victim, that was addressed to Kennedy.
In the letter, the victim states Kennedy will never understand the physical and emotional tearing that he caused her and her family, and that she now has the strength to show the world who he is, as her child no longer has a voice.
The victim said because of her ordeal, she had to have over 35 surgeries.
She said she spent over a year in-and-out of the hospital being treated. During this time, she was on a ventilator for a week, and it took her months to do basic functions like walking, brushing her hair, getting dressed, or going to the bathroom.
"You took a piece of me that I'll never get back and I hate you for it," the victim said. "You left me broken to be able to do simple things."
Added the victim: "It felt like I was always taking one step forward and two steps back."
The victim said she would cry constantly at the hospital, felt that the close relationship she had with her brother is gone, and it took her a long time to realize that she was being raped for years by Kennedy.
The victim added that while she was in the hospital, she missed seeing other members of her family, as she wasn't able to spend much time with her stepfather before he died from an illness, and blames Kennedy for causing her father to die due to a heart attack likely caused by stress.
"My family lost so much because of you. I've lost so much because of you," the victim said.
The victim said she thinks about what her child could have accomplished in its life, and said she wishes Kennedy could truly feel the pain he caused her and her family.
"I continue living. You did not defeat me," the victim said.
Victim's mother confronts Kennedy
The victim's mother spoke to Kennedy before the sentence was given.
She said for over two years she has wanted to address him for the pain he inflicted on her daughter.
"For two years, she fought for her life in-and-out of a hospital," the mother said.
The mother said she watched her daughter be violated and humiliated while being treated, and said for over a year, she was with her daughter in the hospital, so she missed spending time with the stepfather and father as well.
"This predator has destroyed my entire family. He will never be reformed," the mother said.
The mother said Kennedy is "social sewage," a "demon" and a "savage animal" who knew what he did to her daughter. She also said she never got the chance to hold her grandchild, as the baby was killed right after it was born.
"I hope you contract a cancerous disease and choke to death, or at least get violated like you violated her," the mother said. "After we leave this courtroom, we will never think of you again."
Judge speaks on unspeakable act
When asked, Kennedy said he did not wish to speak on his behalf.
County Judge J. Craig Cox said the case was planned to go to trial, as a jury was selected.
However, as the case was about to proceed to opening arguments, a plea deal, which had been negotiated for a while beforehand, was agreed upon.
Cox said there are no words to describe the murder of a baby other than horrific.
However, he said the way the baby's body was disposed of and discovered is something he has never seen in his years of service and can only describe it as unimaginable.
Cox said he recognized the extreme pain this ordeal has caused the victim and her family, and said a benefit to not having the trial is to not have the victim relive the trauma again through testifying.
He added he hopes she and her family can heal as much as they can.
"Nobody should have to go through that," Cox said.Nicholas Vercilla is a staff reporter for The Beaver County Times and Ellwood City Ledger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Times staff reporter Dani Fitzgerald contributed to this report.