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New York Times
Published October 24, 1995
MOUNT HOLLY, N.J., Oct. 23— A woman with a history of depression may have deliberately driven her car into the Delaware River, killing her 16-month-old daughter, prosecutors said today.
The woman, Teresa Kinch, 36, was in critical condition today at Cooper Hospital University Medical Center in Camden, on a life support system and in a coma. She spent at least 15 minutes underwater on Saturday night before being rescued by a police officer, and her prognosis was unknown.
The authorities are trying to determine whether Ms. Kinch, of Florence Township, intentionally plunged her car into the river, said the Burlington County Prosecutor, Stephen G. Raymond.
Her daughter, also named Teresa, was strapped into a car seat. She died several hours after a police diver pulled her from the submerged car. An autopsy found that the cause of death was drowning.
“There’s been no definite conclusion,” Mr. Raymond said at a news conference. “It’s very possible this is a murder-suicide.”
Her husband, Sidney, discounted that theory.
“She didn’t take no plunge,” Mr. Kinch, 46, told The Burlington County Times. “She was swerved off the road. She was trying to avoid something.”
Mr. Raymond said that Ms. Kinch was on medication for depression, and that the authorities were investigating other possible suicide attempts. He could not provide additional information about those attempts.
While investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the incident was accidental, Mr. Raymond said, Ms. Finch’s mental condition “is somewhat telling.”
“It is a severe depression,” he said.
A military veteran, Ms. Kinch was discharged in August from the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Lyons, a hospital spokesman, Luke Metaxas, said. He declined to comment on her treatment or how long she was at the hospital.
Mr. Raymond said that Ms. Kinch and her husband, a disabled Vietnam veteran, met at the veterans hospital 13 years ago when both were patients. He did not know why they were hospitalized.
A witness told the authorities that Ms. Finch drove down a boat ramp at a park in Florence Township, Mr. Raymond said. The witness, Heather Kramer, did not see the car go into the river, but when she realized it had disappeared, she ran to the water and saw the taillights, he said.
“She did it really, really casually and slow,” said Ms. Kramer, who called the police. “I was like, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ ” she said.
Mr. Raymond said investigators were checking Ms. Kinch’s 1991 Chevrolet Cavalier for possible defects, although it did not appear that the brakes had failed. He said the car was in gear when it was in the water.
The police received a call around 8:45 P.M. Saturday that the car had plunged into the river. Capt. Sefton Sutphin, an off-duty diver, heard the call and was the first to arrive at the scene.
Captain Sutphin pulled Ms. Kinch from the submerged car, said Chief Richard Yurcissin of the Florence Township police. He went back into the water and felt around in the car until he found the child and pulled her out.
The girl was unconscious when she was rescued, but paramedics were able to get her breathing, the authorities said. The child, who may have spent 30 minutes or more underwater, was pronounced dead at Cooper Hospital.
Georgianne Urmson, who lives next door to the Kinches, said Ms. Kinch seemed different when she returned home from the hospital in August.
“She didn’t want anyone to talk to the baby or talk to her,” Ms. Urmson said. “Since she got back, she’s been very antisocial.”
Photo: Teresa Kinch, 36, with her daughter, also named Teresa, whodrowned at the age of 16 months on Saturday. Prosecutors say Ms. Kinch, who is in a coma, may have intentionally driven into the Delaware River. (Associated Press)