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Heaven Puleski sentenced in baby Rayen's death in Schenectady

Heaven Puleski sentenced in baby Rayen's death in Schenectady

Mother given 15 years
Heaven Puleski sentenced in baby Rayen's death in Schenectady
Heaven Puleski in court with her attorney Tuesday

SCHENECTADY - The Schenectady woman who admitted to causing her baby's death last year was sentenced Tuesday to her agreed-upon term of 15 years in prison.

Judge Matthew Sypniewski imposed the sentence on Heaven Puleski at a proceeding where the prosecutor argued Puleski threw her child away "as you would a bag of garbage."

“Unfortunately for her son Rayen,” prosecutor Christina Tremante-Pelham told the court, "Heaven Puleski was more interested in drugs than she was taking care of her baby."

Puleski, 38, pleaded guilty in April to one count of first-degree manslaughter in the death of her 4-month-old son Rayen. In exchanged, she received 15 years in prison Tuesday.

Interviews after Heaven Puleski sentencing in Schenectady from Daily Gazette on Vimeo.

Prosecutors called the agreement a compromise that balanced the proof they had in the case with the goal of keeping Puleski in prison beyond her child-bearing years. She had previously faced a top count of second-degree murder.

Puleski also never admitted to doing so, prosecutors have said, but rather maintained she found the baby dead next to her in bed after injecting heroin the previous evening. 

Photos: Images from Heaven Puleski's sentencing Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Rayen's body was found wrapped in plastic bags in a grassy area behind 766 State St. on Aug. 9. Police believe Rayen died sometime between July 17 and July 23. July 17 is the day family members believe Rayen was last seen alive.

The prosecutor said she hoped the sentence would prove to be a deterrent in similar cases. But perhaps more importantly, she said, the sentence was designed to put Puleski in prison past her childbearing years. 

Puleski, who will be 53 when released, was initially charged with “acting in depraved indifference to human life.”

Due to advanced decomposition, authorities identified the child's skeletal remains through DNA soaked through a pillow placed in the bag with child, Tremante-Pelham said.

And despite enlisting the help of a forensic FBI anthropologist, officials could not identify a cause of death, which weakened the prosecution's case on those charges. 

Absent a cause of death, the plea represented the reality of what prosecutors could prove, Tremante-Pelham said.

And while prosecutors enlisted an eyewitness who described Puleski shaking the child during a drug comedown, the prosecutor said the witness ultimately proved not to be credible.

"Postmortem depravity alone was not enough to overcome the burden we would face at trial," she said.

The infant’s body remains in storage. As the child's mother, Puleski must sign off on their retrieval for burial.

Lisa Dutcher, Puleski’s maternal aunt, on Monday said she believed her niece would do so.

“It’s not enough time for her to be serving, but I am pleased with the outcome,” Dutcher said.

Though a family member of both Puleski and Rayen, Dutcher said her reason for attending Tuesday's proceedings was focused on only one."I was here for the baby," she said. "Not for her."

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