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Woman 'cut unborn baby from womb'

A woman who faked a pregnancy and panicked as her supposed due date grew near attacked a pregnant mother with a baseball bat and cut her full-term foetus from her womb, killing the mother and baby, court documents said.

Annette Morales-Rodriguez, 33, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide while armed and first-degree intentional homicide of an unborn child while armed, following the death of Maritza Ramirez-Cruz and the boy she was set to deliver next week.

Morales-Rodriguez faces mandatory life in prison if convicted. Morales-Rodriguez made a brief court appearance in Milwaukee, standing silent as her bail was set at one million dollars (£640,000).

According to the criminal complaint, Morales-Rodriguez told detectives that her boyfriend wanted a son but she could not get pregnant. She told him she was pregnant anyway, but started to grow desperate as what would be her due date approached. She told investigators she planned for two weeks to find a pregnant woman, take the baby and make it hers, the complaint said.

Morales-Rodriguez drove around last Wednesday searching for a pregnant woman, but found none, authorities said. On Thursday she drove around a non-profit organisation that provides Hispanics with healthcare and found Ms Ramirez-Cruz. The 23-year-old had moved from Puerto Rico to join her childhood sweetheart, Christian Mercado, said Mr Mercado's father, Carlos. They already had three children together, and Ms Ramirez-Cruz was carrying their fourth.

Morales-Rodriguez told detectives she thought about telling her boyfriend the truth, but decided against it and offered Ms Ramirez-Cruz a ride. Telling Ms Ramirez-Cruz she needed to change her shoes, she drove them to her house. Ms Ramirez-Cruz went inside to use the bathroom. When she emerged, Morales-Rodriguez was waiting for her with a baseball bat.

The complaint said Morales-Rodriguez began to hit Ms Ramirez-Cruz and choked her until she passed out. Morales-Rodriguez then taped Ms Ramirez-Cruz's feet and hands and taped over her mouth and nose. She cut her open with a knife, the complaint said. She told detectives she was trying to imitate a procedure she had seen on the Discovery Channel.

When she pulled the foetus out, the baby was not breathing, Morales-Rodriguez said. She smeared some of Ms Ramirez-Cruz's blood around her thighs to make people think she herself was bleeding from giving birth, then called emergency services and said she had given birth to a stillborn baby.

She was taken to a hospital but left before she was fully examined, the complaint said. But an autopsy the next day revealed that the baby was not the product of a natural birth. Police returned to Morales-Rodriguez's house and took her back to the hospital. An examination verified she had not given birth, and officers arrested her.

Morales-Rodriguez is due back in court on October 19 for a preliminary hearing.

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