by Steven Ertelt
October 17, 2006
Philadelphia, PA (LifeNews.com) — A Pennsylvania man who was charged with killing a pregnant woman and her unborn child has been convicted. Stephen Poaches killed his pregnant girlfriend, LaToyia Figueroa, because she refused to succumb to his demands and those of another girl he was dating to have an abortion.
In a nonjury trial, Judge Teresa Sarmina found Poaches guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 24-year-old Figueroa and her unborn child. Poaches was given a sentence of life prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty in the case because Poaches entered into an agreement in which he waived his right to appeal the decision.
Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega said Poaches wanted Figueroa to have an abortion and planned the killing in advance.
"He did not want this child to be born," Vega said, according to an AP report. "He planned it. He did it. And he almost got away with it."
But, Poaches’ defense attorney, Michael Coard, argued his client should only get voluntary manslaughter instead of murder and claimed Poaches had not planned the killing in advance.
"You do deserve to be punished, Poaches, for what you did and you know it," Figueroa’s aunt, Stephanie Stephenson, told Poaches in court, according to the Associated Press report. "I forgive you for what you did."
Pennsylvania is one of 34 states with laws that allow prosecutors to seek justice in the death of or injury to an unborn child in the course of an attack on her mother.
Some 24 states, including Pennsylvania, include protection for mothers and their unborn children throughout pregnancy. Another 10, such as the California law used to prosecute Scott Peterson in a similar case, offer legal protection during the earlier stages of pregnancy.
During questioning, Lisa Lawrence, who was dating Poaches at the same time as Figueroa, indicated that Poaches wasn’t happy that he was the father of two unborn children to two different women. Though Lawrence wasn’t concerned about him dating Figueroa, she wanted her to have an abortion.
The three members of the love triangle had a phone conversation just four months before Figueroa disappeared and she reportedly told the other two that abortion is "not an option for me."
Poaches was arrested in August 2005 after police ended their month-long search when they found the dead woman in Chester, Pennsylvania, about 13 miles away from Philadelphia.
Investigators have told reporters that Poaches admitted he strangled Figueroa in rage when she told him she didn’t agree with having an abortion. They had just gone to a prenatal checkup beforehand.
Figueroa was the mother of a seven year-old daughter.
After Poaches allegedly killed Figueroa, he tried to move her body and that’s when police apprehended him.
Relatives and friends of Figueroa had covered the city in fliers trying to find the young woman and a reward of $100,000 was offered for any information leading to her.
"Now she can rest in peace," her father, Melvin Figueroa, said after her body was found last year. "All I want is justice with that peace."
"Why he did it, I will never understand why, because she never did harm to him," he said, after a memorial service for Figueroa.