Case Update: Nicole Layman Arraigned in Abandonment Murder of Newborn Sophia Grace Hadden

Nicole Layman at her arraignment on March 3, 2020.
(Times Herald-Record)

Nicole Layman, who was arrested on February 18 in connection with the death of her newborn daughter, Sophia Grace Hadden, will face trial for the baby’s murder pending the findings of a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation and competency exam.

On November 12, 2019, the infant girl’s body with part of the umbilical cord still attached was found abandoned in a vacant lot in Port Jervis, New York. The little girl, later named Sophia Grace Hadden by her grandmother, died of exposure to the elements on a night when temperatures fell below freezing. 

Baby Sophia Grace Hadden memorial site at vacant lot
The Port Jervis community has created a memorial for Sophia near the vacant lot where her body was discovered in November.
(Justice for Baby Sophia Facebook group)

Investigators believe that Nicole hid her pregnancy from her friends and family and acted alone. They say that Sophia, who was premature at 30 weeks gestation, was born alive and could have survived if she had not been abandoned in the cold by her mother.

Nicole was originally arrested on a charge of second-degree murder that alleges she caused the baby’s death by acting recklessly, exhibiting depraved indifference to life, and creating a grave risk of death to a child under the age of 11. On Monday, March 2, an Orange County grand jury indicted Nicole Layman on five additional charges, including a second count of second-degree murder, this charge alleging that Nicole intentionally caused Sophia’s death, and one count each of second-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault, abandonment of a child, and tampering with physical evidence.

Upon Nicole’s initial arrest, District Attorney David Hoovler acknowledged that “there are probably some mental health issues in the case.”

At her arraignment hearing, which took place today in Goshen, New York, Nicole alternated between weeping, wiping her eyes with hands connected by handcuffs to a belt around her waist, rocking in place, and resting her chin on her chest. Her court-appointed lawyer, Andrew Greher, entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

Her boyfriend, Andrew Hadden, was present at the hearing as a spectator. 

Judge Robert Prisco granted Greher’s request to have Nicole undergo a psychological and competency evaluation. He also set Nicole’s bail at $500,000 cash or a $3,000,000 bond.

After the hearing, Nicole’s lawyer said, “Mental health is a component here. This is somebody who was diagnosed with significant mental health issues for years.”

Attorney Andrew Greher was appointed by the court to represent Nicole Layman.
(Times Herald-Record)
(Times Herald-Record)

Time will tell if those mental issues impact the trial, the verdict, or the sentence in any way.

The death of little Sophia shocked and angered the Port Jervis community. A Facebook group was created to unite those seeking justice for Sophia; as of this writing, the group has over 1,760 members. Interestingly, Nicole herself was a member of the group prior to her arrest, and according to the group administrators, some of the comments she made on group posts contributed to her arrest. 

Nicole is being held in Orange County jail. Her next court date is on April 16.

Sources: Times Herald-Record, Facebook

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