Katie Stockton Pleads Guilty to First Degree Murder

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WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- Katie Stockton, the Rockton woman accused of leaving her newborn to die on the side of the road in 2004 admitted today for the first time she is guilty of first degree murder.

It's a plea that came as quite the surprise this morning, especially since her trial was set to start Monday.

What some would call a surprising end to this case, considering Stockton has said many times she's not guilty of murder, today, much different story with a shaky voice and hung head.

Stockton told judge John Truitt, she doesn't want a trial. Instead, she plead guilty to one count, meaning she'll go directly to sentencing. Stockton faces between 20-60 years in prison.

If Stockton was found guilty during a trial she could have faced life in prison, even the death penalty before it was abolished in Illinois. Today, Stockton's step father appeared to be the only family member in attendance. He says he's been to nearly every court hearing since the 31-year-old was arrested, so as you can imagine this was a difficult day for her family as well. Today, the State's Attorney's office detailed the case to the court room, saying multiple experts believe "Baby Crystal" was born alive before she suffocated in plastic bags on a cold day in December, 2004.

A sentencing date is set for April 5th. Once stockton is out of prison, whenever that day comes, the state wants her to serve three years probation and register as a violent offender to youth. Again, she's facing between 20-60 years, so she could be anywhere between 51 and 91-years-old.

Below is what the community has gone through over the last eight years:

It starts with a gruesome discovery, followed by a calm plea, a call, reaching out to a mother who abandoned a baby in a trash bag on the side of a rural Rockton road in December 2004.

Days later, an autopsy shows the infant, dubbed "Baby Crystal”, was likely born alive and was breathing before she froze and suffocated while wrapped in clothing and trash bags "

Come December 21st, there was still no mother in sight. The community pours into Calvary Cemetery to honor the abandoned child. Stockton's parents later find out they were attending their own granddaughter’s funeral.

As the community receives some closure, the case remains wide open for nearly four years. Katie Stockton is arrested in 2008 for forgery. She refuses to provide DNA to authorities.

A year later, investigators get the evidence themselves by picking up Stockton’s used cigarette. Forensic testing later proves Katie Stockton is the mother of "Baby Crystal".

On August 11th 2009 police searched Stockton’s car at an impound lot in South Beloit. The case takes an eerie turn after police say they found two dead infant girls in the trunk, the coroner’s office says the babies are not twins.

In fall of 2011, the State's Attorney's office will spend the next two years determining what information will go to trial.

With a lot of debate, delay, and multiple "not guilty pleas" from Stockton, less than a week before a jury hears Stockton’s case, the 31-year-old hangs her head telling a judge she's guilty of first degree murder, leaving her step father in tears, as the case nears its end.

This guilty plea does not involve the skeletal remains of two other infant children found in the back of her car. Authorities say there is not enough DNA evidence to confirm that they are hers. The State’s Attorney’s office says it is still under investigation.

WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- The Rockton mom accused of leaving her newborn baby to die on the side of the road is pleading guilty to one count first degree murder. This morning Katie Stockton accepted a plea deal at what would have been her final pre-trial hearing.

At today's hearing we learned Baby Crystal was most likely suffocated.

Katie Stockton faces 20-60 years in prison. Once Stockton is released, she will be under supervision for 3 years, face a possible $25,000 fine and will have to register as a violent offender against youth.

As you probably remember, Baby Crystal’s body was found in 2004 in a plastic bag on Will Road near the home of Stockton’s parents. Autopsy results showed the infant had cocaine in her system and tested positive for Hepatitis B.

Katie Stockton was arrested in 2008 on forgery charges. Under her sentence, she was supposed to provide a DNA sample: a request she denied multiple times.

In August 2009, investigators used one of Stockton’s cigarette butts for a DNA test. Police say the test results proved she was the mother of the abandoned child.

A first degree murder warrant was issued and Stockton was arrested in 2009 in Kansas City, and extradited to Rockford.

For years, Stockton’s defense attorney and the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office have been preparing for trial. It was supposed to begin on Monday.

We’ll continue to bring you coverage tonight on the 23 News at 5, 6 and 10.