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Utah midwife charged in preemie death

Premature twin died after woman allegedly ignored advice to take the mother to a hospital.



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"Once the mother was in the ambulance, ... [Sorensen] came out yelling, requesting the mother come back into the wellness center to deliver the second baby," police wrote.

The second twin, S.S., was delivered by Caesarean section and was resuscitated. A.S. died at Valley View Medical Center.

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Doctors at Valley View and Dixie Regional said both twins were born in peril, but A.S. would have had "a 100 percent chance of survival" had he been born in a hospital, police wrote.

Sorensen was charged Monday in 5th District Court with second-degree felony manslaughter and two misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment. Wilcox was not charged in connection with the case. Sorensen could not be reached for comment.

While investigating the death of A.S., detectives found evidence of "several deaths of infants as well as cases where the newborn infant and/or the delivering mother suffered serious bodily injury as a result of techniques used by Sorensen and Wilcox during childbirth," according to court documents.

An apprentice of Sorensen told investigators she discovered Sorensen was misrepresenting her certification to clients and carried prescription drugs illegally. The trainee recounted a birth where Sorensen used oxytocin to stop a woman’s hemorrhaging and then delayed sending the woman to a hospital; "By the time that the client was transferred to a medical facility, she was nearly deceased due to the hemorrhage," police wrote.

Another "health care provider in the midwifery field" told police that at least one stillborn infant was buried on Sorensen’s property, investigators wrote. In 2007, sheriff’s deputies investigated several similar reports of infant graves but closed the case "due to lack of cooperation from the victims," noting that witnesses reported many of Sorensen’s clients were undocumented immigrants and polygamous families wanting to avoid contact with government officials.

After Sorensen and Wilcox learned of the new investigation in 2013, detectives took a helicopter over Sorensen’s home and found footprints in fresh snow leading to an area of disturbed ground among thick sagebrush, police wrote. Five mounds appeared next to each other, with unusual vegetation growing above them — signs of a burial site, forensic anthropologists told police. Dogs searched the property, but court records do not indicate their findings. Sorensen faces no charges relating to clandestine graves.

It is the second criminal case in less than a year against a lay midwife in Utah accused of contributing to the death of an infant.

In September, Eagle Mountain midwife Valerie El Halta, 72, pleaded no contest in 7th District Court to class A misdemeanor charges of unprofessional conduct and reckless endangerment in the death of a Moab infant whom she allegedly delivered with the help of a prescription drug and a vacuum tool she was not authorized to use.


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El Halta was sentenced to 72 months probation and ordered to pay $78,700 in restitution. No jail time was ordered, but El Halta, as part of a plea deal, agreed to not practice midwifery, or mentor or train other midwives in Utah.

ealberty@sltrib.com

Twitter: @erinalberty



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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