Colorado woman sentenced in 1996 death of newborn girl

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — A judge has sentenced a Colorado woman to 90 days in prison, three years in a community corrections program and eight years of probation in the death of an unidentified newborn girl whose body was found in a garbage bag in a reservoir in 1996.

Jennifer Katalinich, 43, also known as Jennifer Tjornehoj, was sentenced Thursday after she pleaded guilty to felony charges of criminally negligent homicide resulting in negligent death of an at-risk juvenile and tampering with physical evidence, the Coloradoan reported. She was also sentenced to 500 hours of community service.

Katalinich, the mother of the baby, was arrested in November 2019 after the newborn was found dead in the Horsetooth Reservoir west of Fort Collins on Aug. 24, 1996.

The unidentified girl, later named “Baby Faith,” was found wrapped in a towel in the bag with her umbilical cord still attached, authorities said. The Laramie County coroner’s office determined the baby died of suffocation.

Lead investigator Rita Servin said Katalinich, who was an 18-year-old incoming sophomore at Colorado State University, gave birth to the baby alone on a towel in her room about an hour after her water broke. Servin said Katalinich then smothered the baby, drove to the reservoir and weighed the baby down in a bag with rocks.

The investigation was suspended in June 1998 after authorities failed to find any leads. It was reopened in 2006 on the 10th anniversary of the discovery of the infant's body.

Investigators resubmitted DNA evidence in 2016 to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for updated analysis. That analysis eventually led to Katalinich.

Katalinich went on to graduate with a degree in wildlife biology, the university confirmed last year. Her attorney Andy Gavaldon said she then married her husband, Michael, and had two more children, a seven-year-old boy and four-year-old girl.

“It’s tragic and it’s heartbreaking,” Michael Katalinich told the court, adding that his wife has told him how sorry she is for killing the girl. “It wasn’t until I read the (pre‐sentence investigation report) that I realized everyone involved in this case is a victim.”