The woman who was arrested in connection with the Baby Faith cold case in November pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and tampering with physical evidence in 8th Judicial District Court in Fort Collins on Monday.
Jennifer Katalinich, 42, turned herself in at the Larimer County Jail on November 5 after a warrant was issued for her arrest. Larimer County Sheriff’s Office investigators announced that she had been arrested in connection with the case of an unidentified newborn baby found dead in Horsetooth Reservoir west of Fort Collins on August 24, 1996.
The coroner’s office ruled that the baby, known as “Baby Faith,” had died of a homicide caused by asphyxia/suffocation. The investigation into her death was suspended in 1998 after authorities failed to find any leads, and was re-opened in 2006 on the 10th anniversary of her death.
In 2016, investigators resubmitted DNA evidence to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for testing, which found five potential matches for people related to Baby Faith. In an interview with one of the people, investigators learned that Katalinich might know something about the case, authorities reported. After Katalinich spoke to investigators in October, a warrant was issued for her arrest and she was charged with first and second-degree murder.
Investigators did not announce whether Katalinich is the mother of the baby, and her arrest affidavit is sealed to the public. Katalinich would have been 18 at the time the baby was born. She has no previous criminal record in Colorado, according to online court records.
Katalinich appeared in court in front of Judge Susan Blanco on Monday morning, where she pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide resulting in negligent death of an at-risk juvenile, a class 4 felony, and tampering with physical evidence, a class 6 felony.
Katalinich appeared in court in person, and the lawyers for the prosecution attended by phone.
According to the terms of the plea bargain, aggravating circumstances exist for both of the charges, and the first charge carries a sentence of two to 12 years and the second charge a sentence of one to three years.
All sentencing options are open to the judge, including prison, probation, or community corrections. It is also up to the judge to decide whether the sentences will run concurrently or consecutively.
The charges filed against Katalinich in November did not originally include tampering with evidence; that charge was added later. According to the charge, which Blanco read in court, it stems from the fact that Katalinich destroyed, mutilated, concealed or otherwise removed evidence connected to the case because she believed that an official proceeding was about to be instituted.
Katalinich could not be seen over the court’s live feed, but she appeared to be crying as she answered Blanco’s questions while pleading guilty.
Blanco ordered Katalinich to undergo a screening for the Larimer County Community Corrections program and a presentence investigation.
Katalinich remains out of jail on a $25,000 bond. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for the afternoon of Thursday, October 8.
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