Morales sentenced for manslaughter

BENZONIA — Alyce Morales was sentenced on Tuesday in Benzie County’s 19th Circuit Court to serve 29 months at a Michigan Department of Corrections facility for training.

Morales, 18, of Cicero, Ill., pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Aug. 26, after a series of events starting with Morales giving birth on July 22, 2013, while camping with her parents at the Platte River Campground. 

The mother and child were taken to Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, where the baby died the next day. An autopsy revealed that the infant had died from injuries consistent with blunt force trauma. Morales said she kept the pregnancy a secret, panicked after she gave birth and began hitting herself and the child. 

However, the defense asked that she be sentenced under the Michigan Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, and called members of her extended family to testify about Morales’ home life. 

Patty Perales and Elsie Vela testified that Morales’ parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that Morales was isolated and “brainwashed” into thinking she could not reach out to anybody about her pregnancy for fear of harsh punishment, or being exiled from the Jehovah’s Witness community. 

They also said that at least her mother was fully aware of the pregnancy, and that her daughter was giving birth, alone, at the campsite where she and members of the Jehovah’s Witness community were staying.

“She was very isolated,” said Vela, Morales’ aunt. “Her family kept her from developing any relationships with anybody outside of the community.”

As for her own situation, a tearful Morales had little to say.

“I was in a bad situation, alone and scared,” she said. “I didn’t think about what was going to happen. It isn’t an excuse. I am sorry every single day for what happened. I never wanted this to happen.”

Morales will receive credit for the 432 days she has spent in the Benzie County Jail. 

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