N.J. teen mom accused of suffocating newborn son in ‘family tragedy’ weeps in court as she’s ordered held in jail

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Friends and family on 18-year-old Jada McClain wept Wednesday morning as a judge in Monmouth County ruled she would remained jailed until trial on charges she suffocated her newborn son and, along with the infant’s father, disposed of his body in a dumpster.

McClain, of Neptune, is charged with first-degree murder. She is accused of giving birth last month at her parents’ house in the middle of the night, suffocating the infant and disposing of his body with her boyfriend Quaimere Mohammed, 19.

Mohammed is charged with desecrating human remains, but was not charged in the boy’s murder. A judge decided he be detained until trail at a hearing last week.

“This is a highly charged case,” Superior Court Judge O’Brien told those in the crowded courtroom. “This is a family tragedy, a tragedy all around.”

Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Dugan argued that McClain should be detained because she plotted to end her son’s life. Dugan said McClain and Mohammed decided before the birth that they would have to “do what’s best for them.”

Prosecutors allege McClain gave birth alone at her house around 4 a.m. on March 29. They say she cleaned herself and the baby off, placed him on her bed, and pressed down on his chest until he stopped breathing.

Dugan said McClain sent Mohammed a text: “I did it, baby.”

Jada McClain, 18, appears in state Superior Court in Freehold, on Wednesday for a detention hearing. McClain is charged with killing her newborn son. April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media

Jada McClain, 18, appears in state Superior Court in Freehold, on Wednesday for a detention hearing. McClain is charged with killing her newborn son. April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

She then wrapped the baby, who she’d named Legend, in a blanket and placed him in a bag before picking up Mohammed and driving to an Asbury Park apartment complex, authorities said. Mohammed put the baby’s body in a dumpster, authorities said.

A friend later told investigators that McClain sent her a Snapchat of the baby boy, with a broken heart. The friend told investigators she recognized McClain’s room, authorities said.

McClain wept, tears streaming down her face, while Dugan recounted the details of that morning.

Her attorney, Thomas J. Cately, argued that her actions reflected her immaturity.

“She was barely 18 when she gave birth,” he said. “I find her to be a sweet, if not somewhat naive, immature person.”

Catley said McClain hid her pregnancy from her parents because she didn’t want to disappoint them, not because she was trying to obstruct justice.

Family members of defendant, Jada McClain listens during court appearance in state Superior Court in Freehold, on Wednesday for a detention hearing. McClain is charged with killing her newborn son. April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media

Family members of defendant, Jada McClain listens during court appearance in state Superior Court in Freehold, on Wednesday for a detention hearing. McClain is charged with killing her newborn son. April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

He argued that McClain should spend the time leading up to her trial with her family who supports her, and receiving physical and mental health treatment. He said she’s neither a flight risk nor a risk to her community.

“A detachment from reality, that’s what I sense when I talk to her,” Cately said.

He also argued that her time in jail has been especially hard, as she’s currently being held in solitary confinement for her own safety.

Family members of defendant, Jada McClain listens during court appearance in state Superior Court in Freehold, on Wednesday for a detention hearing. McClain is charged with killing her newborn son. April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media

Family members of defendant, Jada McClain listens during court appearance in state Superior Court in Freehold, on Wednesday for a detention hearing. McClain is charged with killing her newborn son. April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) April 17, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Judge O’Brien sided with the state’s recommendation to keep McClain jailed until trial.

“Much of this is, in fact, based on immaturity, youth,” he said. “Yet the act of taking a life, anyone can do it. You don’t have to be an adult.”

O’Brien said that while the court doesn’t control the jail’s actions, he hope it complies with recommendations to get McClain treatment.

After the hearing, Catley told reporters that they knew the hearing would be an uphill battle, considering McClain’s co-defendant, Mohammed was detained last week.

But Catley praised the many friends and family members who have come to support McClain at her hearings so far.

“They’re in a strange position, because they wan to mourn the death of their grandson, but they don’t want their daughter to be incarcerated,” he said.

McClain will remain in Monmouth County jail, pending future hearings.

Paige Gross may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @By_paigegross.

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