Following the killing of a Green County newborn in January, southwest Wisconsin lawmakers are backing legislation that would add instruction about Wisconsin’s infant relinquishment law to the state’s health education curriculum.
They hope that the measure, which awaits floor discussion in the state Assembly, will help reduce abandonment and deaths of newborns.
“I’ve had a very positive response to it,” said Rep. Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, who co-authored the bill with Sen. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan. “Everybody gets it.”
The bill was developed at the urging of Green County officials and a family member of the deceased infant, who was named Harper. Authorities discovered the newborn in the woods in the Village of Albany, with a gunshot wound to her forehead.
Prosecutors have charged the infant’s father, Logan T. Kruckenberg-Anderson, of Albany, with first-degree homicide, a Class A felony, and hiding the corpse of a child, a Class F felony. If convicted, the 17-year-old could receive a life sentence in prison.
He has pleaded not guilty. A status hearing is scheduled in Green County Circuit Court on Thursday, Sept. 30.
The proposal would require any school that teaches a curriculum in human reproduction and development to include discussion of Wisconsin’s Safe Haven law.
Novak is unsure whether Kruckenberg-Anderson was aware of Wisconsin’s Safe Haven law at the time of Harper’s killing. Anderson’s attorney, public defender Guy Taylor, could not be reached for comment.
Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, also signed onto the bill.
“It’s unfortunate when you have a tragedy … and it brings things to our attention that we wouldn’t have thought of before,” he said. “If we can change the law, at least maybe it will prevent a tragedy like that from happening again.”
According to a criminal complaint, four days after Harper’s birth, the child’s mother reported the infant missing and told authorities she had last seen the baby with Kruckenberg-Anderson.
He told investigators that he and the baby’s mother discussed their options for relinquishing Harper, including “dropping the child off at the local fire department” or taking it to Madison to drop her off at an “adoption place.”
Later, Kruckenberg-Anderson told investigators he had carried the child to a remote wooded area in Albany, where he left her in the snow to die.
Investigators located the infant’s body and determined she had been shot twice in the head, an act to which Kruckenberg-Anderson later admitted, the complaint stated.
All 50 states have enacted safe haven laws with the intent of reducing criminal abandonment of newborns.
Wisconsin statute enables a parent or legal guardian to relinquish custody of an infant within 72 hours of the child’s birth to a law enforcement officer, emergency responder or hospital employee without fear of prosecution.
They also do not have to provide information so long as the infant is unharmed. The baby is placed with foster or adoptive families.
Texas became the first state to institute a Safe Haven law in 1999, and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 4,100 infants across the country have been surrendered since then. The infant homicide rate declined more than 66% from the 10-year period spanning 1989 through 1998 compared to 2008 through 2017.
Fred Naatz, director of Grant County Social Services, said he is aware of just one or two local surrenders in his 28 years of county employment.
He believes a significant obstacle to its use is a lack of public awareness.
The Green County case “would have been a perfect situation” to utilize Wisconsin’s Safe Haven law, Naatz said.