Boston Herald

No one knew she was pregnant until she killed her baby

Scripps Howard News
Wednesday, October 6, 1999
Boston Herald

EVANS, Colo. - Sarah Vasquez was co-captain of the cheerleading squad and a saxophone player in the marching band. Her principal at Greeley West High School called her a leader among students.

But when she crossed the stage to receive her diploma last spring, the smiling cheerleader was four months pregnant. She hid it from everyone up until the very end, a family friend said.

Her daughter was born Sunday night and what followed stunned everyone who knows Vasquez.

Police say the 18-year-old stabbed her baby with scissors just after giving birth at home.

The baby suffered several wounds to the chest, some of which penetrated her lungs, Weld County coroner Scott Anthony said. "In essence, the baby bled to death," he said.

Scott determined the baby was full term, and weighed about 5 pounds.

Vasquez's mother and older sister were home, but apparently in a different part of the house when the baby was born.

Earlier Sunday, Vasquez had told her mother she was feeling wretched - bad orange juice or something, she guessed.

Shortly after the birth, her father returned home from a football game. He found the wounded newborn in the bathroom and called a friend as he tried to revive her.

"They're devastated. Their children are their lives," said Shirley Henry-Lowe, a family friend. She's also a school counselor and the cheerleading coach.

The baby's heart was still beating when paramedics arrived at the Vasquez home. She was pronounced dead shortly after 8 p.m. Sunday, three hours after birth.

Sarah Vasquez spent a night at the hospital before being booked Monday into the Weld County Jail.

"Sarah is one of the most amazing young women I've ever had the opportunity of knowing," Henry-Lowe said. "One of the most uplifting, in love with life, incredibly positive, insightful, compassionate, kind young women. Sarah learned those qualities from her parents."

Robert and Avelina Vasquez were devoted to their two daughters, so much that they earned the high school's Spartan Pride Award, given to the best parent volunteers.

"These are parents who gave everything for their kids and were at school a lot and involved with volunteer venues," said Greeley West Principal Erik Fredell. "This is a great family."

Vasquez dated, but no one knew of a serious boyfriend. Henry-Lowe called her "one of the guys". ... Sarah is not the kind of girl who gets her identity from a guy.

"Robert and Avelina didn't know she was pregnant. Her sister didn't know she was pregnant. Sarah said she didn't know she was pregnant. What happened, I don't know, because the Sarah I know wouldn't hurt anyone or anything."

This fall, Vasquez started classes at Greeley's Aims Community College. She hoped to transfer to a four-year college and major in computer science.

Now she's facing charges of child abuse resulting in death, a second-degree felony.

On Tuesday, a judge released Vasquez to the custody of her parents, on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond.