ELYRIA — The Lorain mother who left her baby alone in a garage while she celebrated Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania with her boyfriend pleaded guilty to two counts of child endangering Monday.
Heather Heck, 23, could get up to eight years in prison when she is sentenced later this year.
County Prosecutor Dennis Will said his office will push for Heck to serve time.
“The nature of the crime and the risk to the child demand it,” he said.
The then-2-month-old boy was covered only by a blanket when he was discovered by a neighbor in a laundry basket in a broken down SUV in Heck’s West 14th Street garage in Lorain. The baby was covered in bed sores, dehydrated and starving, according to police.
Heck left on the trip on Nov. 24, 2006, and returned Nov. 26, the day her son, now named Samuel, was found.
Carl Cales, Samuel’s grandfather, said Heck’s sentencing was in the hands of God, just as the neighbor finding Samuel was.
“How does a baby go through all that and when that guy goes into the garage he still has the strength to cry out one more time?” Carl Cales said Monday, adding that the boy is now in good health.
Heck initially denied Samuel was hers, even when police confronted her with soiled baby diapers and baby food found in trash that also contained mail addressed to her.
She later told police she had found the baby on her tree lawn and was caring for him, but was afraid to call police after the boy disappeared. She finally admitted — after she was shown store security videotape showing her buying baby food — that the child was hers, and that she would leave the baby at her apartment alone while she was at work, returning every few hours to check on him and feed him.
Will said he was encouraged that Heck took responsibility for her actions by pleading guilty to the indictment with no plea agreement.
“I always believe that’s the first step,” he said.
Heck’s attorney, James Barilla, who brought Heck in to plead a week before her next scheduled pretrial, said his client was under a tremendous amount of pressure when she left the baby alone.
“She pled guilty because she accepts what she did was wrong,” Barilla said. “She didn’t mean to harm the child, but she made a bad decision.”
Heck had concealed the pregnancy from everyone, including the baby’s father, her then-boyfriend, Wesley Cales, because she feared how it would be received by their church, according to police. She explained the bulge in her belly to Wesley Cales, who now has custody of the boy, by saying she had an inflamed pancreas.
Carl Cales said it was a shock to the family to learn that Heck had given birth to a child, and he doesn’t know why she kept it a secret.
“We still don’t know why and we may never know why,” he said.
Heck did not tell police when the boy was born, although she said she gave birth alone in her apartment and never named the baby.
Barilla said Heck, who has visitation rights to her son, wants to be a good mother.
“She cries, not out of fear of going to prison, but because of the thought of being separated from her son and having to explain to him what she did,” Barilla said.
Neither Heck nor Wesley Cales could be reached for comment Monday.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.