A Wisconsin woman who confessed to cutting an unborn baby out of a woman’s womb in an attempt to steal the child was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Annette Morales-Rodriguez, 34, was convicted in September on two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of 23-year-old Maritza Ramirez-Cruz and her unborn child. During testimony in court, Morales-Rodriguez was upset she was not able to provide a son for her boyfriend and she devised a scheme by which she pretended to have miscarriages and faking a pregnancy before deciding to steal an unborn child from a pregnant woman.
During the sentencing hearing with Judge David Borowski, the only question was whether Morales-Rodriguez would be able to qualify for parole, since the crimes call for mandate life sentences in prison. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.
The Associated Press reported more on the decision:
Morales-Rodriguez didn’t testify during her trial, and her defense attorneys, who didn’t deny that she attacked Ramirez-Cruz, didn’t call any witnesses. Instead, they argued that the 2011 deaths of Ramirez-Cruz and her baby were reckless but not intentional because Morales-Rodriguez didn’t mean for the victims to die.
They urged jurors to convict her of the lesser charge of first-degree reckless homicide, which carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison. Instead, jurors convicted her on the original charges.
A key piece of evidence during the trial was a videotaped police interview in which Morales-Rodriguez described her attack on the young mother. She admitted luring Ramirez-Cruz to her home, bludgeoning and choking her into unconsciousness, and then using a small blade to carve out the fetus.
In the video she is seen sitting at a desk in a small interrogation room, sobbing, sniffling and occasionally covering her face with her hands. Her voice is generally unwavering, but she pauses frequently and sighs heavily.
Morales-Rodriguez told police she offered the young woman a ride and then took her to Morales-Rodriguez’s home, where Morales-Rodriguez bashed the pregnant woman in the head with a baseball bat and choked her until she passed out. She said she then put duct tape over the younger woman’s mouth and nose and wrapped a plastic bag around her head. She then used a small blade to slice Ramirez-Cruz open from hip to hip and pulled out a stillborn boy.
The victim was a mother of three in her 40th week of pregnancy at the time of the brutal attack. After the attack, Morales-Rodriguez told 911 dispatchers she had just given birth to a baby who was having problems breathing, but medical examiners concluded that was impossible.
At first, emergency workers and police believed it was a tragic still birth.
But an autopsy revealed the portions of a uterus were still attached to the child, and police arrived at Morales-Rodriguez’s house to say she must return to the hospital because she could be in danger.
About the same time, Ramirez’s family was calling the same hospital because she had never come home and they knew she was due to deliver her child.
Detectives responded to the hospital and Morales-Rodriguez eventually confessed to the crime, then later made a more detailed, recorded confession at police headquarters.
These kinds of cases are surprisingly not infrequent.
In 2011, police say Kathy Michelle Coy told a 21-year-old pregnant friend in Kentucky that they were shopping for baby supplies. Instead, Coy took Jamie Stice to a wooded area, subdued her with a stun gun, and cut out her baby from her abdomen.
In December 2009, a woman near the nation’s capital was arrestedin a chilling case that saw her capture a pregnant woman and hold her captive for days in her apartment. Eventually, Veronica D. Deramous used a box cutter to cut open the pregnant woman’s stomach and attempt to take her unborn child.
Deramous kept the pregnant woman in her Suitland, Maryland home and provided her with food and water until she should get what she really wanted, the mother’s child. Deramous turned up the volume of her television and duct-tapped a rag inside the mother’s mouth.
“You’re strong,” Deramous told her victim, police said in a report on the brutal crime. “You can handle what I’m going to do to you.”
With box cutters and a razor blade, Deramous cut into the 29-year-old homeless woman’s stomach and attempted to take the child. Unsuccessful, she went to sleep and then fled her home later when the woman escaped and alerted neighbors. The woman was able to eventually flee the apartment and her insides were still exposed when she presented herself to medical personnel. The baby, a girl whom the mother plans to name Miracle, survived the attack.
In 2006, an Illinois woman stood accused of killing a pregnant mother and cutting her unborn baby from her womb. Prosecutors said then-24 year-old Tiffany Hall killed Jimella Tunstall, who was seven months pregnant at the time, and her three children. Hall was charged with both first degree murder, in Tunstall’s death and intentional homicide of an unborn child.