As Clark County medical examiner Gary Telgenhoff explained the graphic specifics of his autopsy on her newborn son, Carmela Camero showed little emotion in Henderson Justice Court.
But in the last minutes of Wednesday’s preliminary hearing to determine whether her case qualifies to be tried for murder, Camero was finally brought to tears.
Public defender Andrea Luem asked Henderson homicide detective Mark Hosaka if he repeatedly questioned Camero about whether or not she killed her son.
“Yes,” Hosaka said.
“And what was her response almost every time?”
But the reason Camero is now being held in the Clark County Detention Center instead of her home is because later, during a voluntary interview in August, she eventually told Hosaka, “Yes.”
Camero, 19, told police that on Aug. 23, she gave birth in a bathtub at her Henderson house, Hosaka said on the witness stand.
Having not known she was pregnant until that day, Camero told police she left the baby in a towel on her bed while she went to the store to buy clothes, diapers, baby powder and other such items.
That evening the baby started coughing, and Camero said she was worried about her mother finding out about the infant, she told police.
Afraid she would be kicked out of the house, Camero pressed the baby’s face against her breast and held him there for 10 minutes, until he stopped breathing, Hosaka said she told him in the interview.
The police weren’t notified until the following day, when Camero called a hospital to report her baby had died, Hosaka said.
This isn’t the first time Camero has been questioned by police about a dead newborn.
In 2006, Camero, then 16, was investigated after she dumped the body of her stillborn daughter in a trash bin at The Mirage.
Las Vegas police did not recommend criminal charges in 2006. That investigation is not admissible in this case.
As in the 2006 investigation, Camero isn’t guilty of murder, her attorney contends.
Luem told the court that Hosaka may have pressured Camero into admitting to a crime she did not commit.
Camero had repeatedly denied killing her newborn in the interview with Hosaka, which lasted nearly three hours, Luem said. Because of the intense police interview, and considering that Camero was emotionally and physically drained after the week’s events, her statements need to be put into context, she said.
“You testified yourself that she didn’t look well (on the day of the interview),” Luem said to Hosaka.
County prosecutor Michael Staudaher said Camero lied to police several times before admitting the truth.
Although she told police she didn’t know she was pregnant, police found handwritten notes in her room which listed the names and addresses of several adoption agencies and abortion clinics, Staudaher said.
Police also found Internet search records for terms such as “abortion” and “my baby’s dead,” he said.
Confronted with these facts, Camero first told police the notes were from when she’d been pregnant several years before.
But when Hosaka showed her a written note she’d dated Jan. 15, Camero confessed she first thought she’d been pregnant as early as January. She was convinced she was by summer.
Police also found many of the baby items purchased were still inside the car when they executed search warrants. The placenta was in a plastic bag in the trunk of the car.
A key aspect to the case will be the Clark County coroner’s ruling of “undetermined” in both cause and manner of the baby’s death.
Luem said to Henderson Justice Court Chief Judge Rodney Burr that the ruling doesn’t prove criminal activity occurred and that any statement made to Hosaka should be inadmissible.
Staudaher said that Telgenhoff’s report ruled out suicide, accidental death or natural death, leaving only homicide and undetermined as potential categories.
But if a suffocation occurred, there wouldn’t be any physical signs expected in a newborn because a baby can’t resist force the way an adult can, Telgenhoff said.
Burr said he will listen to a briefing from the attorneys at a later date and then decide whether Hosaka’s testimony can be stricken.
If it is stricken, Staudaher conceded the case could be much more difficult to prosecute.
“These are the kind of crimes done behind closed doors and no witnesses,” he said after the hearing.
The hearing will be continued Tuesday. The court will hear statements from Camero’s mother and her mother’s boyfriend.
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0283.