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College Student Kills Newborn Son, Surrenders to Authorities

By Karl Vick
The Washington Post
WILMINGTON, Del.

A college freshman dubbed the "boy fugitive" for remaining at large after being charged with killing the newborn son he helped deliver surrendered Thursday to authorities who have said they want to put him to death.

Flanked by his father and his mother, who buried her weeping face in the sleeve of her son's fleece jacket, Brian C. Peterson, 18, solemnly trudged to the FBI office in Wilmington through a horde of reporters and camera crews.

When federal agents swarmed onto the sidewalk to clear a path for the suspect, whom the tabloids simply called Brian, it marked the official close of a 100-hour manhunt - a drama that Peterson's attorney said helped him refocus attention on the vulnerability of his young client rather than on the baby found in a motel trash bin with a fractured skull.

The FBI immediately turned Peterson over to Delaware authorities, who have charged him with first-degree murder. After appearing briefly in court without entering a plea, Peterson Thursday night was being held without bail. His high school sweetheart has been in custody since Tuesday.

Amy S. Grossberg, 18, also faces a charge of first-degree murder in the death of the unnamed, full-term baby boy she delivered with Peterson's assistance in Room 220 of the Comfort Inn near Newark, Delaware, not far from her dormitory room at the University of Delaware.

It was unclear Thursday, however, whether either suspect still faces a possible death sentence if convicted. Prosecutors began the week insisting the punishment fit the crime but have shown signs of reassessing the situation under the torrent of attention the case has drawn.

Delaware Attorney General M. Jane Brady, who on Monday said the age of the victim made a request for the death penalty automatic under Delaware law, Thursday did not return calls.

Joseph A. Hurley, the Wilmington defense attorney who arranged Peterson's surrender, said the public interest eventually helped.

Speaking to more than 50 journalists shortly before Superior Court Judge Henry duPont Ridgely imposed a gag order on attorneys, Hurley acknowledged that what started out as a wrenching case - unusual mostly for the affluent, educated backgrounds of the accused - had by week's end become a primer on the uses of pre-trial publicity.

"Originally, when it was publicized by the state, all that was portrayed was the horror of the act - which is a horrible act, if it happened as the state suggests," Hurley said over the roar of a hovering news helicopter.