All-American Tragedy
Oprah and Baby Boy Hope headline
In 1999, the residents of Columbia Station, Ohio, woke up on a Tuesday morning to a horrific headline: "Newborn Boy Found Stabbed in Duffel Bag in Quarry." The community named him Baby Boy Hope and gave him a memorial service.

For the next six years, police made it their mission to bring the person responsible to justice. They believed they were looking for a monster, but the person who eventually came forward shocked them all.

Jessica Coleman—former cheerleader, star athlete and honor student—confessed to the crime. She was 15 years old at the time of the baby's death.

"I could be playing in a park right now with my son, but I'm not. I'm sitting in prison. This is never what I thought my life would be. I made a terrible, terrible mistake," Jessica says in an interview from prison.
Jessica Coleman
When Jessica was a freshman, she began dating senior Tom Truelson, a popular basketball star. The relationship quickly became serious. "It was about four or five months into the relationship before Tom and I became intimate, and he was my first," Jessica says.

After Jessica missed her period, she took a pregnancy test. "It's as if within those few minutes that that test registered [positive] I felt like my life was completely taken away from me," Jessica says.

She says the couple made a pact to keep the pregnancy a secret. Jessica said no one ever noticed she was pregnant. "I had an eating disorder at the time. I was both anorexic and bulimic. I played sports. I would only eat when I was in front of people so they wouldn't think something was wrong," Jessica says.

Jessica also says when Tom would come home from college, he would "sometimes stand on my stomach so it wouldn't protrude forward." Tom denies ever doing this.

"It became my number one goal not to let anyone realize that I was pregnant. So I did all these things that seem ridiculous to me now just in order to not put on one more pound or to not show in any way," Jessica says.
Jessica Coleman
Jessica went to school the day she would give birth. After experiencing intense cramps, she called her mother, a nurse, to pick her up and take her home. Her mother, who still knew nothing of the pregnancy, asked if Jessica would be okay and then returned to work.

At home Jessica took Tylenol and went to her room to lie down. "My cramps started getting a lot worse ... I felt like I needed to use the restroom, and when I went to push, it's as if he [her newborn baby] fell out in the toilet," Jessica says.

She says she carried the baby into her bedroom. "He never made any noises or moved at all by himself. And by the time I had got to my room, I had fallen on top of him," Jessica says. "I had blacked out, I believe, from losing so much blood...By the time that I came to and I looked down, he was underneath me."

Jessica says she tried to clear the baby's mouth and cut the umbilical cord, clamping it with a barrette. "I wasn't sure if he was still alive or if he was stillborn at that time," Jessica says.

Jessica says she then tried to clean the bathroom. By that time, her mother was calling her for dinner. "I had to go sit with my family at the dinner table," Jessica says.
Jessica Coleman
Shortly after giving birth, Jessica went downstairs to eat dinner with her family. "I kept thinking, 'I need to say something right now. I need to get help while there's still possibly a chance to help him in any way,' and I couldn't," Jessica says.

After excusing herself from the table, Jessica returned to her room and found the baby's condition hadn't changed. Jessica says she then decided to stab the baby with a knife. "I stabbed him in the chest because I thought I was taking away his pain," Jessica says. "I didn't do it to hurt him intentionally."

Jessica says she then put the baby in a duffel bag, hid it in her closet and went to school the next day. Tom arrived at her home that evening. "Tom took the duffel bag and he ended up tossing the duffel bag in a quarry near where we lived at the time," Jessica says. "I felt scared. I didn't know what he was going to do beforehand. And after he told me what he had done, I felt terrible then, too."
Oprah talks to Jessica Coleman via satellite.
Six months after the baby was left in the quarry, the Lorain County Sheriff's Office received a call from a diver who said he'd found a rock-filled bag with a baby's body inside.

The baby, who weighed only four and a half pounds, was wrapped in towels, had a fractured skull and a stab wound to the chest. He also had a barrette clipped to his umbilical cord.

The news sent the community reeling. "The community kind of gelled together and kind of rose up a little bit out of fear. Like, who could have done this in our community?" Sheriff's Detective Karl Yost says.

"I was looking for a monster," he says. "I had no idea who would stab a child, crush its skull, stuff it in a plastic bag, put it in a duffel bag, pile rocks on top of it, zip it shut, throw it in a quarry, never to be heard from again."
Jessica Coleman
Jessica and Tom were in her mother's backyard one summer day when her mom told them the news about a baby found in the quarry. "It made everything so real," Jessica says. "It made me feel so terrible about everything that had happened."

Jessica says she then thought that she would get caught. "I was constantly afraid," she says. Part of the reason Jessica says she didn't confess early on was that she didn't want to lose Tom.

Jessica says once she heard the news, she was tempted to talk to her mother. "I felt that if I could just tell her, then I wouldn't have to be afraid anymore," Jessica says. "I knew she was my mom and she would love me regardless of anything else, and Tom was there with me. We could have just sat down and told her. But that's not what happened."

Jessica's mother, Jennifer, says she heard about the case on television. "I actually asked Jessica, 'Who wouldn't be able to talk to their parents?'" Jennifer says. "And she just said, 'Mom, I don't know who would do that.' I never thought it would be my daughter."
Jennifer, Jessica's mother, discusses her lost grandson.
Jennifer says she never had a clue that the news reports about Baby Boy Hope were about her own grandson.

Jennifer never suspected her daughter was pregnant. "She never looked pregnant. She was always her happy self. She was very tall and thin. She continued to play sports. There was never a time where she appeared to be sick," Jennifer says.

Jennifer still isn't sure why Jessica never revealed her secret. "I wish that I would have questioned her more. I'm sure that there were so many nights that she wanted to tell me that she was going to have a baby," Jennifer says. "I think it got to the point where she just didn't know how to say it anymore."
Jessica's boyfriend, Matt
Six years after the Baby Boy Hope unsolved mystery, Jessica no longer dated Tom and was now in a serious relationship with Matt. One night, while out at a bar, Jessica and Matt were talking about their future together.

"All of a sudden, I had a nervous breakdown, and I just started crying. I started talking about what had happened," Jessica says. "Someone had overheard me. This person made an anonymous call to Detective Yost which led to him questioning me."

Detective Yost says the caller was "very specific" and "very certain" that Jessica was the mother of the found baby, and he went to interview her.
Detective Ned Yost
After years of fruitlessly searching for what he called a "monster" who killed a child and discarded of its body so gruesomely, Detective Yost was shocked when he found himself interviewing Jessica.

"I was expecting a person I could have an excuse not to like," he says. "Maybe a drug user, someone living in the streets, but it turned out to be an all-American girl—blonde hair, blue eyes."

Detective Yost says when he first questioned Jessica he knew that her full confession was forthcoming. "She looked at me without any eye contact and I was certain at that point in time [she'd done it]," he says. "She gave me a look that convinced me that she is the one I'm looking for and that she's ready to talk."

And when he conducted a full interview days later, Jessica gave her confession.
Judge Edward Zaleski
Jessica avoided a trial by pleading guilty to seven felonies including involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment and gross abuse of a corpse. Her ex-boyfriend, Tom, also pled guilty to the charges of gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice. On February 8, 2006, Judge Edward Zaleski sentenced Jessica to six years in prison and Tom to two years in prison.

Judge Zaleski says he decided on Jessica's sentence for involuntary manslaughter—which was less than she would have gotten for first-degree murder—because of the coroner's inability to prove a cause of death. "It's my indication that the stab wound itself did not cause the death of the child. So, therefore, the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter," he says.

He asked his family, including his then 14-year-old granddaughter, to sit in his courtroom when he handed down his sentence. "I felt it very important to have my children and granddaughter there to teach them some of life's important decisions on what could happen in a tragedy. And let them learn and perhaps pass it on to other children," Judge Zaleski says.
Suzanne Hobbs
Suzanne Hobbs, a journalist in Idaho Falls, Idaho, was on the scene in 2000 when police discovered a discarded body of a newborn baby. Police later questioned a teenager who confessed to the crime. The 18-year-old mother, who claimed the baby was stillborn, was convicted of unlawful disposal of a body.

After speaking with the teen's father, Suzanne learned that Idaho did not have a safe haven law, though many other states did. Safe haven laws enable mothers to bring babies to certain places—like hospitals, fire stations and police stations—and leave them in the care of the state, with no questions asked. The teenager's father told Suzanne he believed that if Idaho had a law like this, his grandchild may have lived.

Since 1999, 47 states have adopted their own individual safe haven laws. Only three states—Nebraska, Hawaii and Alaska—do not yet have safe haven laws.

Suzanne proceeded to call her state senator, pressing him to take on the issue. "For six months, I bothered the state senator," she says. "He finally got it through, it passed with flying colors through the the Idaho Senate and the House." When the governor signed the law, Suzanne says, "he said, 'Thank you for your help on this law. Your fingerprints are all over this law.'"

Since the safe haven law was passed in Idaho, 13 newborns have been surrendered...including the baby girl who is now Suzanne's adopted daughter.
Oprah talks to Jessica Coleman via satellite.
Jessica says she had never heard of safe haven laws when she was pregnant. "When I look back, more than anything I wish I would have just turned to somebody as soon as I found out. If I would have known of things like [safe haven laws], I could have had a plan," she says. "I could have figured out something and possibly taken him somewhere where he could have been safe. I feel that if I would have been more knowledgeable of options, the outcome never would have been what it is today."

Jessica says she is determined to educate children to prevent something like what she did from happening again. "When I am released I would love to get involved in programs and any type of opportunity to talk to people and let them know it's so important to have communication with your children. And for the parents to really be involved and to actually pay attention to what's going on."
Oprah's message to Jessica
"Did you know that at the age of 14, I hid a pregnancy? I was raped at 9 and sexually abused from the time I was 10 to 14. At 14 years old, I became pregnant," Oprah tells Jessica. "I hid that pregnancy from everybody. One day my ankles started to swell. I was taken to the hospital and the doctors said, 'Are you pregnant?' I didn't even know what pregnancy was. I'd been abused all this time, but I really wasn't even sure that the outcome was you have a baby. So I confessed that I had been having sex with people who had been abusing me for years. The stress of that confession caused me to go into labor, and the baby died.

"And my father said to me at that time what I'm going to say to you," Oprah continues. "What you have done is the past, and you alone get to determine what your future will be.

"You have five more years to serve in prison. There are a lot of teenagers out there right now who are hiding their secret, just as I had mine, because I didn't think there was anybody I could tell about the abuse. I didn't think there was anybody I could share it with, just like you didn't feel that there was anybody you could tell. Your speaking out today is going to give a lot of girls the courage to do that. You are not your past. You are what is possible for you. Own this truth and move forward in your life. Forgive yourself, and others will be able to forgive you."