By CARRIE ANTLFINGER
MILWAUKEE (AP) – A Milwaukee woman accused of killing a pregnant woman and trying to steal her full-term fetus dropped her insanity plea during a final hearing Thursday before her trial starts next week.
Annette Morales-Rodriguez, 34, had pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, including homicide of an unborn child. She’s accused of killing 23-year-old Maritza Ramirez-Cruz last October and slicing out the fetus to pass off the child as her own. The boy also died.
An earlier defense team planned to pursue an insanity defense, but the court-ordered doctor didn’t find evidence to support that plea. Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge David Borowski said Thursday that the opinion of someone hired by the previous defense attorneys would not stand up in court.
Morales-Rodriguez changed her plea to not guilty during the hearing Thursday. She answered Borowski’s questions about whether she approved and understood the change, through an interpreter, with “Correct,” ”I remember,” or “I understand.”
Morales-Rodriguez is accused of faking a pregnancy, panicking as her supposed due date grew near and then luring Ramirez-Cruz to her house. There she attacked her with a baseball bat, strangled her and then used an X-Acto knife to cut the fetus out, according to the criminal complaint.
According to the complaint, Morales-Rodriguez could not get pregnant and her boyfriend wanted a son.
Ramirez-Cruz died of loss of blood and asphyxiation. The boy died as a result of the mother’s death, the complaint said.
Prosecutor Mark Williams said he plans to play a videotaped confession by Morales-Rodriguez during the trial, which is expected to start with jury selection Monday. It’s expected to last about a week.
Her public defenders had no comment.
Similar cases of women taking an unborn child from a mother’s womb were reported in Massachusetts and Oregon in 2009, in Pennsylvania in 2007, in Illinois in 2006 and Missouri in 2004.