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Frozen baby: "You can not get something out of your body and pretend it never existed"

Two pink fuchsia sneakers are planted in the middle of the assize court of Aude: "My name is Karine E., I am 43 years old, I am a home help and mother of a little boy." With her frail figure, her short hair and her glasses, which nibble her half of the face, the accused – who appears free – looks like a lost girl in a world of robes and ermine. In front of her, there are the seals, big kraft bags sealed with red wax containing the remains of her life before, ten years ago. "This case is no longer a denial of pregnancy, it is a denial of justice," murmur Me Thierry Chopin, lawyer of the civil party, deploring the slowness of the procedure: six years of instruction, three years for hearing and finally two and a half days of trial. The jurors would therefore have to travel on time, traveling back and forth between the 34-year-old woman accused of committing a "willful homicide on a minor under 15" and the 43-year-old who "Come back from so far", found a peaceful life with his 10-year-old son in alternate custody.

On June 13, 2010, Karine E. was participating in a garage sale when her companion, Alexandre L., phoned after finding a garbage bag in the family freezer. He wanted to know what he contained or rather dreaded the confirmation of what he had seen. "Nothing", replied Karine E. "Nothing", it was an infant wrapped in a blue night towel. "I do not remember that call or what happened. I have rediscovered everything. It's almost like I'm learning it today and everything seems amazing, incomprehensible, " said the accused, alone in front of the jury. Alexander L. did not want to attend the trial, "Not the strength to tell again", underlines Me Thierry Chopin. Time has done its work, it is waiting for one thing: "What he rebuilt is not destroyed again." In other words, the mother of his son – from whom he is now separated – is punished but does not go behind bars. The president will read the statements in which the man evokes panic after the discovery of the body. The sobs. Cigarettes chained frantically. At the time, he lived with Karine E. for three years. They have a baby of 18 months, "are happy". This June day, Alexandre L. calls his father and his father-in-law. Together, they decide: we must go to the gendarmerie.

"I did not feel anything"

This is how the case of "Frozen baby from Aude" or "Infanticide of Lasbordes", the name of this small village of 700 souls between Castelnaudary and Carcassonne. All experts agree: it's a denial of pregnancy "Massive", "total". "It happens to everyone to put unwanted things in a small box and lose the key, explains psychiatrist Claude Aiguesvives. But she put a lot in those little boxes. " In her words, Karine E. "Learned that she was pregnant by the time she gave birth". One evening in January or February, she woke up with a sharp stomach pain, then lost the waters. She sat on the floor in the living room, back to the sofa and facing the television on the move. Alexandre L., a truck driver, was not there. "I felt nothing, heard nothing, nothing that made me get back on my feet. I lived all this as if I was next. It was me, it was not me, She evokes. A baby is born. She has to "Had to look at him" but does not keep any image. For Karine E., "he was'nt here". "Nothing." She thought that if he had shouted or cried, she might have reacted. But that night, she "All tidy", "all cleaned up" and when the alarm rang, she prepared the breakfast for her 15-month-old son and son-in-law, as every morning. "I will never forgive myself what I did," She slips.

Seeming to pick up bits of herself scattered, she is reforming the puzzle of an existence that began rather "well", in the countryside near Castelnaudary, before becoming "chaotic". The accused had "Maybe 20 years" when his mother died in a car accident. Drunk driving. Drunk the rest of the time. "She told me that she would rather drink than take care of us," She summarizes. And to add: "The whole family collapsed. Not me." He had to take care of his little brother, raise him, help him with his studies. It was also necessary to support his father, a farmer, to take care of the domestic tasks of the farm. The psychologist describes a girl who grew up "Without shoring", in a world of loneliness and unspoken, then a woman "Frozen in a feeling of inexistence", "uninhabited", confined to being only "What others want it to be".

The others, precisely, Karine E. watches them scroll to the bar to say how much "She looks after her kid," than "She's a perfect mother," that, no, really, they did not "Nothing seen", "nothing understood". "It has always been erased," his brother notes. "It's a person who hides his feelings," insists "The mother of the father of the child". "I do not know anything about his personal life," admits Alexandre L. "If she had told me about the problems, maybe we would not be here," sighs his father. During the legal process, all discovered a hidden baby but also a buried life. She never told them that her first companion was "Typed so much, so much …" Facing the jury, Karine E., is nothing but a broth of tears. Everything is reflected. She is crying for her mother "Who abandoned her". She's crying that baby she "Denied". She cries twelve years of beatings, verbal abuse, rape. Paul left in 2006, the night of her 30th birthday, after a final beating "During three hours". The court remains petrified by the distress of this little brown woman with twisted hands on her handkerchief, this accused who, in a childlike voice, suddenly awakens the ghosts of a sunken past.

Had the child survived?

Alexandre L., will have been "The chance to [sa] life "," love at first sight ". Very quickly, she became pregnant but only discovered it after six months. When the gynecologist confirmed it to him, her belly came out at once. "She realized this pregnancy because the others told herinsists the psychologist. But that was not the case for the second child. The outside world did not give him a reality, so he did not have one. " Karine E.'s belly was barely bouncing, the baby was lurking along the spine. As "The traumatic past that she can not verbalize", in the words of the psychiatrist, nestled in the depths of his memory.

A few months earlier, Véronique Courjault appeared in a highly mediaeval trial for killing three newborns before placing them in a freezer. Is there a judicial mimicry? "Why did you keep the child?" softly questions the president, Sylvie Chamayou. "Because it was deep inside me. I do not see why I would have separated from it. " In this same movement, which reflects all the ambivalence of denial, she has both thrown it (in a garbage bag) and preserved (in a chilled tomb). "Was it a relief to find the baby?" "Yes", responds the accused in a muffled cry.

By opening Pandora's freezer, justice has finally revealed to her what she has never been able to see, transforming the "nothing" in a little boy born near term, weighing a little more than 2 kilos. In a baby "viable", having breathed after birth. "Even if being here in front of you is complicated, it puts things flat. For everyone and for me too. You can not get something out of your body and pretend it never existed. "says Karine E. If the experts have ruled out any evidence of violence and believe that the child was already dead when it was frozen, they are hard put to clearly establish the causes of death that are "Multifactorial". Lack of care may have caused hypothermia or dehydration. Not to mention that the child was born in respiratory distress after inhaling meconium and that the umbilical cord was not clamped. One thing is certain: he would have needed specialized assistance, without it being possible to say whether he would have survived.

"You need proof"

"When you put a plastic bag on a child in respiratory distress, you can only cause death," supports Florence Galtier, the general counsel. Nevertheless, as the accused – whom she calls in a slip "Mme Courjault " – suffers from "Pathology related to motherhood" and evolved "Positive" it requires a lenient sentence of five years' imprisonment, with a one-year stay with probation. Me Sylvain Rèche, Karine E.'s lawyer, stands up and faces the jurors: "You must say right, not just" frozen baby's lady, it's been five years old ". To condemn it, it is necessary to prove that this mother has given death, one needs a material element and an intentional element. You have neither, " he pleads, recalling the absence of violence on the body of the child and the"Severe impairment of discernment" of the mother, restrained by the psychiatrist.

After three hours of deliberations, the jury returned under the paneling. This Wednesday, at 11:30 pm, they told the shaking accused as a leaf that she was guilty. No intentional homicide but of"Willingly deprived his child of care and feeding to the point of death". They sentenced her to five years in prison, including 37 months suspended. Sighs of relief in the black dresses: having already served two years under an electronic bracelet, Karine E. will not go to prison. The little pink sneakers go down the steps of the palace and disappear in the night.

Julie Brafman special correspondent in Carcassonne (Aude)

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