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Insanity plea for Wis. woman in fetal abduction (UPDATE)

Annette Morales-Rodriguez appears in Milwaukee County Intake Court on Oct. 10 in Milwaukee. Attorney Robert D'Arruda entered a plea Wednesday of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Gary Porter)

By DINESH RAMDE
Associated Press

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The lawyer for a Milwaukee woman accused of killing a pregnant woman and trying to steal her full-term fetus entered an insanity plea on his client’s behalf Wednesday, and said he’ll ask a judge to throw out her confessions to investigators.

Attorney Robert D’Arruda told reporters he’s not aware that his client has a history of mental illness, but he wants an opinion from a medical professional.

“Mental illness isn’t something that’s easily diagnosed,” he said. “That’s why we just want a mental-health professional to examine her and see if there are any mental-health issues.”

Annette Morales-Rodriguez, 33, is charged with two counts of 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.

D’Arruda entered pleas on his client’s behalf of not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. That means Morales-Rodriguez will now be evaluated by a mental-health professional, who must provide a report to the court by Dec. 16.

Morales-Rodriguez was brought into court in a wheelchair, her wrists and ankles cuffed. She wore a padded blue vest and sat hunched over, silent and expressionless, as her interpreter translated the proceedings into Spanish.

D’Arruda said he plans to request that the trial to be moved from Milwaukee County because pretrial publicity in the area could damage her case. He also said he wants the judge to throw out incriminating statements that his client made to police, saying she wasn’t read her rights before her first police interview.

Investigators describe Morales-Rodriguez as a woman anxious to give her boyfriend a son but unable to conceive. They say she lied to her boyfriend and told him she was pregnant. As her supposed due date approached she became desperate and began plotting to “find a pregnant woman and take the baby and make it hers,” the criminal complaint said.

She chose 23-year-old Maritza Ramirez-Cruz after spotting her outside a nonprofit organization that provides Hispanics with health care, the complaint said. She picked the younger woman up on Oct. 6 and took her home, where she bludgeoned her, choked her until she passed out and sliced the baby from her womb with a small blade, the complaint said.

Ramirez-Cruz and her baby boy died.

Police say she told them the baby wasn’t breathing so she called 911 and reported that she’d given birth to a stillborn child. She was taken to a hospital, where she refused treatment and left.

An autopsy revealed that the baby wasn’t born naturally. The mother’s uterus was attached to the baby and had been cut out by force, the complaint said, and both ovaries and Fallopian tubes were still attached to the uterus and placenta.

Officers returned to Morales-Rodriguez’s house that day and took her back to the hospital. An examination verified she hadn’t given birth and police then questioned her.

A pretrial and motion hearing is scheduled for Jan. 27, and a jury trial set for March 5.

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