Nov. 24, 2010 -- A woman who served a year in prison after pleading guilty to killing her frail infant has angered police by now denying she is guilty, and claiming she only pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter so she could get out of jail and treat her cancer.
Nicole Richards, 24, says she was inspired by the struggles of her daughter 3-month-old daughter Autumn to now beat her own case of cervical cancer. She also wants to clear her name.
Her statements have prompted police in Apex, N.C., to speak out.
"I am just shocked by her at this point, after having pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter, to reach out to this lengths to try to make the point that she didn't do anything inappropriate," said Apex Police Chief Jack Lewis.
"It appears to me she has desires of being seen as a victim," said Lewis. "She is not a victim."
"The victim is Autumn, who was 100 percent dependent on others to care for her," the chief said. "And the standard that you would expect somebody to meet with a child who has health issues is far higher than what took place."
Autumn was born last year two months premature. She had health problems throughout her short life, including a heart condition and hyperthyroidism.
Apex Police Capt. Ann Stephens told ABC News' Raleigh affiliate WTVD that Richards was aware that putting the child face down could be fatal.
"(Richards) knew the outcome if she put her child on her stomach," Stephens said. "She knew this could be deadly to this child."
An autopsy obtained by the station could neither determine the cause of death, nor rule out the chance it was a tragic case of SIDS or the baby's ongoing health issues.
Richards was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2009 after authorities said she put Autumn to sleep face down, despite knowing the potential risk that could cause to her breathing.
According to Lewis, Richards had brought the infant to a home in Apex where another female and two men were waiting to hang out. While Richards has claimed that she never left the child alone "for more than 10 minutes," Lewis says that's not true.
"Her estimates are not at all consistent with what our investigation found," said Lewis. "Text messages we have showed that she and her friends were messaging back and forth and they weren't consistent with her version that she was constantly monitoring the child."
Lewis also said that when Richards called 9-1-1 and was asked if CPR had been started, she responded that it had not, despite telling the operator that she had twice before revived the child and knew how to administer the life-saving procedure.
Mom Denies Contributing to Daughter's Death
Richards, however, now denies putting the child down on her stomach or doing anything to endanger the girl.
"I would have ended my own life before I would have ended hers," Richards told WTVD.
"I never ever, not even once, laid her down on her stomach unless I was with her," she said.
Richards, who has three other children, is trying to get her guilty plea overturned so that her record is clean, according to WTVD. She said she agreed to the guilty plea so she could serve out her prison term and be able to get out and treat her cervical cancer.
"If I waited up to another year to go to trial and got the not guilty, then there was the possibility it would be too far advanced to do anything about," said Richards.
"When I saw her fight as well as she did that made me want to fight that much harder," Richards said. "There was no way in the world that I would've hurt her ... there's not. It's not even a remote possibility."
But police are skeptical of Richards, and say that they have no regrets in having sent Richards to prison for more than a year.