By DINESH RAMDE
MILWAUKEE (AP) – A Milwaukee woman accused of killing a pregnant woman and trying to steal her fetus described the attack in a videotape prosecutors played for jurors Wednesday, telling investigators she repeatedly bashed the victim in the head with a baseball bat before choking her to death.
Prosecutors played about 38 minutes of a 90-minute police interview conducted with Annette Morales-Rodriguez last October. In the recording, she describes how she attacked 23-year-old Maritza Ramirez-Cruz and then performed a crude cesarean section with a small blade in the hopes of passing the baby off as her own.
The 34-year-old has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of the mother and her full-term fetus. 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.
Her public defender contends the homicides weren’t intentional because Morales-Rodriguez didn’t intend for anyone to die.
As the video played, Morales-Rodriguez sat silently in the courtroom, her head bowed as she stared at the table where she was sitting.
In the recording, she sits at a desk in a small interrogation room, sobbing and sniffling and occasionally covering her face with her hands. Her voice is generally unwavering but she frequently pauses and sighs deeply. She speaks in Spanish and police detective Rodolfo Gomez repeats her words in English.
She tells Gomez that her boyfriend desperately wanted a son, but she couldn’t “stay pregnant.” She says she faked two previous pregnancies, each time claiming she miscarried.
She says she told her boyfriend a third time she was pregnant. When Gomez asks how she planned to extricate herself from that lie she says she figured she could claim another miscarriage but also considered other options. Those included committing suicide or telling her boyfriend the truth, as well as stealing a baby from a pregnant woman.
She described how she met Ramirez-Cruz at a community center that provides social services for Hispanics, and offered her a ride. She says Ramirez-Cruz accepted, and Morales-Rodriguez first took her to a drugstore for anti-nausea medication.
Eventually Morales-Rodriguez began to panic, unsure whether she could go through with her plan. She says she stopped at her own home briefly and left the young woman in the car, but Ramirez-Cruz came inside to use the bathroom. That’s when Morales-Rodriguez says she launched her attack.
“The girl came out of the bathroom and she hit her with a bat. A wooden bat,” Gomez says, translating Morales-Rodriguez’s words for his partner in the interrogation room. “She hit her twice in the head.”
With no urging, Morales-Rodriguez goes on to volunteer grisly details describing a fight in which she continued beating the victim until Ramirez-Cruz’s eyeglasses broke. She describes choking Ramirez-Cruz until she passes out, and then putting duct tape over her eyes and nose and wrapping a plastic bag around her head. She says she used a small blade to slice the victim open from one hip to the other and pull out the non-breathing boy.
Also Wednesday, prosecutor Mark Williams showed jurors a number of graphic photos, including a picture of the victim’s disemboweled abdomen. One juror put her hand over her mouth, and another rested his forehead on his palm and looked away for a moment.
During cross-examination, Gomez confirmed to public defender Debra Patterson that Morales-Rodriguez said she was “sorry for the girl” and that she never meant for the baby to die.
The trial, which began Tuesday, is expected to wrap up by the end of the week. The defense has declined to say whether Morales-Rodriguez will take the stand.