Friday, August 8, 2003

Woman's defense: I obey my husband

Says he told her to drive, breastfeed

By M.R. Kropko
The Associated Press

RAVENNA, Ohio - A woman on trial for breast-feeding her baby while driving on the Ohio Turnpike testified Thursday that she nursed behind the wheel because her husband told her to do it.

Catherine Nicole Donkers, 29, said she had stopped earlier on May 8 and fed cereal to her 7-month-old daughter. Donkers said the baby was still hungry after she got back on the road, headed to Michigan from Pennsylvania.

"I called my husband, and he directed me to continue on, to drive to Michigan and nurse my child in the car. We did not feel we were breaking any law," Donkers said. "I had the cruise control on at 65 mph."

Donkers, who is representing herself on several misdemeanor charges, called herself to the witness stand and talked Thursday afternoon for more than an hour in Portage County Municipal Court.

Brad Lee Barnhill has said he told his wife to nurse while driving to save time.

"I directed you to do what I thought was in your best interest," Barnhill told Donkers when he testified earlier Thursday.

On Wednesday, Barnhill, 46, was denied his request to stand in for his wife at the trial. The couple belong to a religious group they say requires Barnhill to be responsible for punishing Donkers.

Donkers refused to pull over for three miles as a state trooper pursued her. When she eventually stopped at a Streetsboro toll booth, troopers said she refused to cooperate until she called her husband for permission.

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