Woman guilty of foetus theft deaths
on 20/09/2012 21:17:29
A jury of six men and six women in Milwaukee deliberated for about an hour before convicting Annette Morales-Rodriguez, 34, of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide over the October 2011 deaths of the mother and foetus.
She faces a mandatory life sentence when she is sentenced on December 14, although a judge could allow for the possibility of parole. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.
Prosecutors said Morales-Rodriguez faked a pregnancy, panicked as her supposed due date approached and then lured 23-year-old Maritza Ramirez-Cruz to her house. There, she attacked her and used a knife to cut the foetus out, according to the criminal complaint.
Ms Ramirez-Cruz died of blood loss and asphyxiation, and her foetus, a boy, died as a result of her death, authorities said.
Morales-Rodriguez's defence lawyers did not deny that she attacked Ms Ramirez-Cruz. But they argued that the deaths of the mother and foetus were not intentional because Morales-Rodriguez did not mean anyone to die.
The strongest evidence against Morales-Rodriguez was a videotaped interview she gave to police in which she recounted the attack.
She explained to investigators that she was desperate to give her boyfriend a son but that she could not "stay pregnant". She said she twice pretended to be pregnant, only to claim each time that she miscarried.
When she lied about a third pregnancy, she considered another scenario: killing a pregnant woman and stealing her baby. She described how she went to a Hispanic community centre and found Ms Ramirez-Cruz, a mother of three who was in her 40th week of pregnancy.
Morales-Rodriguez told police she hit Ms Ramirez-Cruz on the head with a baseball bat, then choked her until she passed out.
She said she then put duct tape over the younger woman's eyes and nose and wrapped a plastic bag around her head.
She then used a small blade to slice the victim open from hip to hip and pulled out a stillborn boy, Morales-Rodriguez said in the videotape.
She then called an ambulance, telling a dispatcher she had just given birth to a baby who was not breathing.
In the ensuing investigation and post-mortem, a medical examiner found evidence that the baby was not the product of a natural birth. A subsequent examination verified that Morales-Rodriguez had not given birth.
Police later found Ms Ramirez-Cruz's body in Moralez-Rodriguez's basement, according to the criminal complaint.