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USC STUDENT CHARGED WITH KILLING BABY; SOPHOMORE HELD IN ILLINOIS.

Byline: Mary F. Pols Daily News Staff Writer

A USC student gave birth to a full-term baby girl, strangled the newborn and dropped her child down the building's trash chute - then went about her life as if nothing happened, according to prosecutors.

A maintenance worker found the dead newborn the next day, and LAPD detectives began the search for the child's mother, a search that took them to Niles, Ill., this week and ended with the arrest of Linda Chu, a 20-year-old sophomore.

Chu was in jail on $1 million bail Thursday and fighting extradition to California. Her arrest left school officials wondering how something like this could happen on a campus rich with student health and counseling services.

``It's just extraordinary that somebody could feel so troubled and afraid that this could happen, particularly given the resources available on campus to help students,'' said Michael Jackson, vice president for student affairs.

Prosecutors say Chu's unsuspecting roommate had just stepped out to study May 6 when she gave birth and strangled the child.

The bundled-up baby, umbilical cord still attached, landed in a trash bin in the basement of the Century Apartments, off-campus housing that is home to about 230 students at the private university near downtown Los Angeles.

A USC maintenance worker making her routine rounds the next morning found the dead newborn.

``A whole bunch of circumstantial evidence'' quickly pointed investigators to Chu, said Marlene Sanchez, the assistant head deputy of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Family Violence Division.

But because the evidence was circumstantial and Chu had returned to her parents' home in Illinois for summer break, it was not until last week that Sanchez was ready to press charges. Investigators flew to Illinois to interview Chu this week, found her unwilling to make a statement and arrested her Wednesday.

The 20-year-old student is charged with one count of murder and two counts of child abuse. If convicted, she could face 25 years to life in prison.

Sanchez declined to elaborate on the evidence against the student, who USC officials said was about to declare a business major, but said it is ``clear cut.''

Much like Melissa Drexler, the 18-year-old New Jersey girl who is accused of killing the baby she'd given birth to in a bathroom stall at her prom on June 6, Chu managed to disguise her pregnancy with baggy clothes, Sanchez said.

There were a few signs that raised questions for friends, such as the fact that the former high school swimming champion opted not to go out for the swim team this winter, Sanchez said. But still, her group of friends remained in the dark about her condition.

``Everybody was quite surprised,'' Sanchez said.

Prosecutors have asked for a court order to obtain a blood sample from Chu to run DNA tests.

According to Detective Steven Hales of the LAPD's child abuse unit, about 15 to 30 children of all ages are killed by relatives each year in Los Angeles. Sanchez said that she knows of about four or five cases of newborns being deposited in the trash over the last few years in the city.

Because USC's spring term ended May 8, there has been little publicity about the infant's death beyond one story that ran in the school's paper, the Daily

Trojan. Most students left the campus in the days immediately following the discovery of the dead newborn, Jackson said.

But for administrators and the students who lived in the Century Apartments, the baby's death was a shocking and painful way to end the school year.

Chu was just a ``regular'' student, Jackson said, with a good academic future ahead of her.

``It is inexplicable,'' he said.
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 27, 1997
Words:617
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