Mother's lawyer to seek leniency

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Date: 1993-11-30

The Geneva woman faces a prison sentence in the death of her adopted child

By GINA M. MASULLO
The Post-Standard

CANANDAIGUA — A Geneva woman convicted of causing her child's death faces up to four years in state prison. But if her lawyer has his way, she'll only get five years' probation. Defense lawyer Douglas Rowe of Rochester said Monday he will submit information to Ontario County Judge Frederic T. Henry Jr., urging a lighter sentence for his client, Lisa Hawkms-Rusch. He wouldn't say what arguments he will use.

An Ontario County jury Wednesday found Hawkins- Rusch guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the September 1992 death of her 13-month-old adopted daughter, Meghan. After deliberating nearly two days, the seven-man, fivewoman jury cleared Hawkins- Rusch, of 401 High St., of the more serious charges against her. Those were two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree manslaughter and one count of second- degree manslaughter.

"I've very glad we had the jury to make the decision, because everybody else prejudged the thing," Rowe said. "Obviously its a very emotional time ... but she's dealing with it."

Hawkins-Rusch and her husband, Steven, had adopted the child from an orphanage in China several months before the child died of head trauma Sept. 26,1992. Two months after the child died, the mother was charged in her daughter's death.

The murder charges accused Hawkins-Rusch of acting with depraved indifference to human life and causing her daughter's death by excessively shaking her or striking her with a hard object.

The first-degree manslaughter charge accused Hawkins-Rusch of causing the child's death with intent to injure her. The lesser manslaughter count alleged that she recklessly caused death.

If convicted of second-degree murder, the most serious of these charges, Hawkins-Rusch would have faced up to 25 years to life in prison.

Criminally negligent homicide is a lesser charge that the judge allowed the jury to consider, said District Attorney Michael Tantillo. The charge, which alleges causing death with negligence, carries a maximum sentence of four years, he said.

Tantillo declined comment on the verdict. Rowe said Hawkins-Rusch is free on $5,000 bail until her sentencing Jan. 14.

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