A woman accused of abandoning her infant in a box beside a South Carolina highway in 2008 will serve four years in prison.
Thursday’s sentencing wraps up a case that had gone cold until police arrested Jennifer Sahr three years ago in the death of the newborn known as “Baby Boy Horry.” Sahr was a college student at Coastal Carolina University when the baby was abandoned.
Circuit Court Judge Paul Burch handed down a 10-year prison sentence, with four years suspended and additional time off for a period Sahr spent under house arrest. Formerly known as Jennifer Rickel, she had been awaiting trial in Pensacola, Florida, with her husband and two children — a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old.
The children were “the most important” consideration in the sentence, Burch said, and he prayed they will be taken care of while their mother is incarcerated.
Sahr faced between two and 30 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter. She entered a so-called Alford plea last September, which maintained her innocence while recognizing that the evidence would likely result in a guilty verdict if the case went to trial.
The prosecutor acknowledged that Sahr has lived a “wonderful life” since 2008. She has a loving family, he said, and graduated college in 2010 with honors. But prison time was necessary to send a “strong message” about abandoning a baby to die, the prosecutor told the judge.
Ronald Woodham III, Baby Horry’s father, told the judge he had compassion for Sahr but questioned what message a “slap on the wrist” would send.
Sahr’s lawyer argued that his client poses no threat and that probation would be more appropriate. He said Sahr did not know she was pregnant until she gave birth in the middle of the night, making it unlikely her prison sentence would send any message to someone in a similar position.