SALT LAKE CITY -- Lawyers for a Utah woman accused of leaving her newborn baby to die in a trash can say her mental state will be a central issue in the case. The child, who was found in critical condition, is now in state custody.
Alicia Marie Englert, 23, made her first court appearance Wednesday in Salt Lake City with her hands shackled behind her back. Her eyes looked partially closed behind black-framed glasses.
Prosecutors say Englert gave birth to a baby girl in the bathroom of the Kearns, Utah home she shared with her family around midnight on Aug. 24. She gave the child no food or medical attention before wrapping her in a towel, placing her in a trash can and going to work two days later, according to police.
CBS affiliate KUTV reports prosecutors say Englert told police she placed the child in the garbage, and that she did not know she was pregnant before birth.
A state judge allowed Englert's attorneys nearly a month to evaluate her before her next hearing. Defense attorney Susanne Gustin called the case sad and horrible, but asked the public to withhold judgment.
"We just ask people to be patient and wait for the information to come out and to maybe give everyone a greater understanding of why this happened," she said.
Photos that have surfaced allegedly showing Englert in a nightclub drinking could be introduced by prosecutors, Gustin acknowledged.
Englert's family has said she has a learning disability and didn't understand what she was doing when she discarded the newborn. Gustin said attorneys are still trying to figure out whether Englert understands the charges.
"Obviously, this is going to be a case of what was going on with Alicia," Gustin said.
Englert is being held on $500,000 bail and faces up to life in prison if convicted on an attempted murder charge.
The baby girl has improved since she was flown to a hospital in critical condition on Aug. 26.
A neighbor who thought she heard a cat purring found the baby suffering from hypothermia and respiratory distress underneath bags of trash.
The child was dirty, smelly and had a blood-borne infection, according to Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. He said the child would have died if she wasn't found and treated. State child welfare workers have custody of the baby, who is in fair condition.
Investigators don't believe other family members knew about the baby. The child's father hasn't been publicly identified.
Englert's next court appearance was set for Oct. 6.