Annette Morales-Rodriguez Convicted In Fetus Abduction, Murder Case

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Normal Annette Morales-Rodriguez Convicted In Fetus Abduction, Murder Case

Post by Wrapitup on Thu Sep 20, 2012 8:13 pm

By DINESH RAMDE 09/20/12 07:25 PM ET EDT

Annette Morales-Rodriguez appears in court earlier today.

MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee woman who confessed to trying to steal a baby by attacking a pregnant woman and slicing out her full-term fetus was convicted Thursday of killing them both.

Jurors deliberated for less than two hours before finding Annette Morales-Rodriguez guilty of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the October 2011 deaths of the mother and fetus. Morales-Rodriguez, 34, faces a mandatory life sentence when she's sentenced Dec. 14, though a judge could allow for the possibility of parole. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.

A key piece of evidence during the trial was a videotaped police interview in which Morales-Rodriguez described her attack on 23-year-old Maritza Ramirez-Cruz. She admitted luring Ramirez-Cruz to her home, bludgeoning and choking her into unconsciousness and using a small blade to carve out the fetus. She told investigators she was desperate to have a son, that she had faked a pregnancy and that she devised a plan to steal an unborn baby as her supposed due date approached.

Ramirez-Cruz died due to a combination of blood loss, blunt trauma and asphyxiation, and the male fetus died as a result of her death, a medical examiner testified.

Morales-Rodriguez did not testify, and her attorneys did not call any witnesses. They also did not deny that she attacked Ramirez-Cruz, instead arguing that the deaths were reckless but not intentional. 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.

"We never said she didn't do it. She told the cops she did," public defender Reyna Morales told the jury of six men and six women during closing statements. "But the evidence ... from the very beginning all the way to the last minutes, reckless, reckless, reckless."

Morales argued that if her client meant for the victim to die, she would have had a plan for disposing of the body instead of stashing it in the basement. She also said Morales-Rodriguez wanted the baby to live so she could raise him as her own.

In the police interview, Morales-Rodriguez explained that she was desperate to give her boyfriend a son but that she couldn't "stay pregnant." She said she twice pretended to be pregnant, only to claim each time that she miscarried. The third time she considered another scenario: stealing the fetus from a pregnant Hispanic woman, she said.

She described how she went to a Latino community center and found Ramirez-Cruz, a mother of three in her 40th week of pregnancy.

Morales-Rodriguez told police she offered Ramirez-Cruz a ride and brought her to Morales-Rodriguez's home. There, she bashed Ramirez-Cruz 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 the victim open from hip to hip and pulled out a stillborn boy.

In a 911 call played for jurors, she told a dispatcher that she had just given birth to a baby who wasn't breathing.


In the ensuing investigation and autopsy, a medical examiner found evidence that the baby wasn't the product of a natural birth. A subsequent examination verified Morales-Rodriguez hadn't given birth.

Police later found Ramirez-Cruz's disemboweled body in Morales-Rodriguez's basement.

Prosecutor Mark Williams told jurors that every detail in the case pointed to deliberate intent. Morales-Rodriguez had plenty of opportunities to stop short of killing Ramirez-Cruz, he said, but at every turn she made the decision to press on.

Williams emphasized that Ramirez-Cruz must have gasped for air and pleaded for mercy as she was choked, with her killer likely looking her in the eye. He also discussed how Morales-Rodriguez admitted taping the victim's mouth and nose and cinching a plastic bag over her head.

"Now what did she think was going to happen when she did that?" he asked.

Morales-Rodriguez told investigators she thought Ramirez-Cruz was dead before she began slicing out the fetus. But a medical examiner testified that blood found in Ramirez-Cruz's abdomen suggested her heart was still beating.

Morales-Rodriguez sat in silence throughout the three days of testimony. She kept her head down and eyes open as she listened through headphones to an interpreter translating English into Spanish.

The victim's husband, Christian Mercado, brought his family to Wisconsin from Arecibo, Puerto Rico, about two years ago. After the trial, he said little to reporters. A family friend, Penelope Solis, said the trial had been challenging for Mercado, because of graphic autopsy photos as well as surveillance video that showed his wife and Morales-Rodriguez shopping at a drugstore hours before the slaying.

"It's been up and down for him. It's been hard," she said. "Some of the videos, the pictures, he's never seen before. There's no words to describe it."

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video above.

Speechless!!

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Normal Re: Annette Morales-Rodriguez Convicted In Fetus Abduction, Murder Case

Post by Wrapitup on Thu Sep 20, 2012 8:16 pm

Defense argues intent in Wis. fetal abduction case

By DINESH RAMDE, Associated Press – 2 days ago

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A woman accused of killing a pregnant Milwaukee woman and trying to steal her full-term fetus never meant for the mother or her unborn child to die, a defense attorney told jurors Tuesday.
Public defender Debra Patterson acknowledged that evidence shows her client, 34-year-old Annette Morales-Rodriguez, sought out a young woman in the late stages of pregnancy and used a blade to slice out the fetus. But Patterson said the key legal question was whether Morales-Rodriguez intended to kill 23-year-old Maritza Ramirez-Cruz or her unborn son.
"We submit to you that Annette engaged in criminally reckless conduct, but she did not intend to kill Maritza," Patterson said in opening statements.
Morales-Rodriguez has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, including homicide of an unborn child. A conviction on either count carries a mandatory life sentence, although a judge could allow for the possibility of parole. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.
Last week, her lawyers switched from an insanity defense after a court-appointed doctor did not find evidence to support such a plea.
In his opening statement, prosecutor Mark Williams sketched a grisly summary that he said explained how Ramirez-Cruz died in 2011. He told jurors they would see video footage of the defendant and victim together, first at a community center that provides social services to Hispanics and later at a drugstore. He also promised to play a 90-minute videotape of the defendant's statement to police, in which he says she provided details that matched what police later found.
Williams also showed a number of graphic pictures, including an autopsy photo of Ramirez-Cruz's disemboweled lower torso.
Morales-Rodriguez sat in silence throughout the proceedings, her eyes fixed on the table where she sat and her expression unchanged.
Prosecutors allege Morales-Rodriguez was so desperate to have a fourth child that she lied three times about being pregnant. The first two times, she fabricated stories about miscarriages. The third time, she plotted to steal a baby by kidnapping a woman in the late stages of pregnancy, Williams said.
The defense acknowledged many of those details. But Patterson argued Morales-Rodriguez was blinded with desperation as her supposed due date approached. Morales-Rodriguez considered a number of options: telling her boyfriend the truth, faking another miscarriage, taking a baby from a pregnant woman, committing suicide, Patterson said.
But those were thoughts, she said. Morales-Rodriguez really didn't know what to do.
Patterson acknowledged that Morales-Rodriguez offered Ramirez-Cruz a ride, thinking about stealing her baby but feeling so petrified during the car ride that she considered just taking the young woman home.
Instead Morales-Rodriguez stopped off at her own home to change her shoes, leaving Ramirez-Cruz alone in the car. Moments later, when Ramirez-Cruz knocked on the door to use the bathroom, "it was at that point she acted on an extreme desire to acquire a baby," Patterson said.
Investigators say Morales-Rodriguez bludgeoned Ramirez-Cruz with a baseball bat, then choked her until she passed out. She then bound Ramirez-Cruz's feet and hands with duct tape and also taped over her mouth and nose, according to the criminal complaint.
Morales-Rodriguez sliced out the baby with an X-Acto knife but the boy wasn't breathing, the complaint said. In a panic, she called 911 and told the dispatcher she just delivered a baby in the shower even though she didn't know she was pregnant.
Prosecutors played the seven-minute 911 recording in court. One female juror appeared to be near tears as Morales-Rodriguez could be heard sobbing that the baby wasn't breathing.
One of the first emergency responders, Milwaukee firefighter Wendi Coon, testified that after the baby was declared dead, Coon and other paramedics swaddled the boy and handed him to the presumed mother for emotional closure.
"But it struck me as odd how she held him," Coon said. "She held him away from her, and she kind of looked at him as an object."
Authorities grew suspicious when the medical examiner found evidence that the baby wasn't the product of a natural birth. A subsequent examination verified Morales-Rodriguez hadn't given birth.
Police later found Ramirez-Cruz's body in Moralez-Rodriguez's basement, the complaint says.

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Normal Re: Annette Morales-Rodriguez Convicted In Fetus Abduction, Murder Case

Post by Wrapitup on Thu Sep 20, 2012 8:57 pm

Defendant in fetal abduction homicides withdraws insanity plea

By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel Sept. 13, 2012

After months of legal wrangling on other issues, a Milwaukee woman on Thursday withdrew her insanity plea to charges she killed a young mother and her unborn fetus in failed attempt to pass the child off as her own.

Annette Morales-Rodriguez, 34, changed her plea to not guilty and is scheduled for trial Monday in the gruesome Oct. 6 slayings.

Earlier this week, a judge ruled that an incriminating statement Morales-Rodriguez made in a hospital emergency room to a detective, which led to the discovery Maritza Ramirez's eviscerated body, would be admissible at trial. Defense attorneys argued the statements should be suppressed because even though Morales-Rodriguez was in custody and under arrest, the detective failed to explain her right to remain silent.

Morales-Rodriguez's mental state became an issue almost immediately. According to court records, she had been pretending to be pregnant for months before she went out looking for someone who was really about to birth a child, and found Ramirez going to an appointment on the south side and offered her a ride.

A state pychiatrist, John Pankiewicz, last year determined Morales-Rodriquez was legally competent and likely knew right from wrong at the time of the offense. Her former defense team then hired a Virginia-based researcher who interviewed the defendant about 13 hours and opined that she suffers from mutiple-personality disorder.

But prosecutors objected to the report, and the judge agreed its author was not likely to be recognized as an expert in court, and ultimately the defense lawyers all withdrew from the case. The new defense team, while focusing on their efforts to suppress statements, declined to commit one way or the other on the issue of an insanity defense until Thursday.

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