Missouri woman gave birth at meatpacking plant, left baby to drown in toilet, police say

A woman working at a Missouri meatpacking plant is accused of giving birth in a restroom at the plant and leaving the newborn to drown in a toilet, authorities said.

Makuya Stephanie Kambamba, 28, of Kirksville, is charged with first-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and felony abuse or neglect of a child, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said in a news release. She was processed through the Sullivan County Jail before being taken to the Daviess/DeKalb Regional Jail, where she remained Monday.

Kambamba is being held without bond.

State police officials said the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office asked the agency for assistance May 6 after the infant was found dead at the plant. KTVO in Kirksville identified the plant as a Smithfield Foods plant in Milan, about 125 miles northeast of Kansas City.

Court documents obtained by the news station indicate that investigators believe Kambamba knowingly allowed the baby to drown. Autopsy results showed his death was consistent with drowning.

Kambamba told investigators she saw movement from the baby after he was born in the toilet bowl, KTVO reported. She said she sat back down on the toilet as she had further contractions but did not check on the baby again.

She left the newborn in the toilet until about 30 minutes later when a Smithfield nurse entered the restroom, the court records said.

The Milan meatpacking plant was recently the subject of a lawsuit filed on behalf of its workers that sought to force Smithfield to abide by federal guidelines amid the coronavirus epidemic. According to The Associated Press, the lawsuit was dismissed May 5 by a judge who ruled that it is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, not the courts, that is responsible for overseeing how plants adhere to federal guidelines.

“Plaintiffs are naturally concerned for their health and the health of their community in these unprecedented times,” U.S. District Judge Greg Kays wrote in his ruling. “The court takes their concern seriously. Nevertheless, the court cannot ignore the (U.S. Department of Agriculture’s) and OSHA’s authority over compliance ... or the significant steps Smithfield has taken to reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak at the plant.”

Though outbreaks of COVID-19 have infected thousands of workers and closed some meatpacking plants, the Milan facility is not one of them, the AP reported. Several of Smithfield's other plants have been closed amid the pandemic, most notably its facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The plant was closed for more than three weeks in April and early May after more than 80 employees tested positive for the virus. A union representing the workers reported that the number of infections was actually higher, with more than 120 employees contracting the illness, the AP reported.

Smithfield officials announced May 6, the day Kambamba's son was born and died, that the Sioux Falls plant would reopen after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USDA found the company is in full compliance with CDC and OSHA guidance.

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