"There can be an affair going on, where the husband or boyfriend are getting a lack of sexual gratification and they venture out, fall in love and feel like they have to get rid of the wife," said Tod Burke, associate professor of criminal justice at Radford University in Virginia and a former Maryland police officer. "But, there really is no typical motive in cases like these. It really is situational."
The Need for Control … or Escape
Despite the various motives, experts say all these killings have a common denominator: a need for control. Pregnancy can make domineering husbands and boyfriends feel like they are no longer powerful and in control, especially in abusive relationships. Murder is the ultimate demonstration of control.
"What we find with men who are violent toward their intimate partner is that he feels that he's lost control or possession over her or her body," said Cates. "He feels that he is not getting the attention that he deserves. He often feels … that he's lost his place to the baby."
Sometimes the desire to continue an extramarital affair, cover it up or make it go away can endanger a pregnant woman. In Ohio, Dr. Maynard Muntzing is serving a five-year prison sentence for contamination of a substance for human consumption and attempted felonious assault after dropping anti-ulcer medication in his pregnant girlfriend's drink.
Muntzing was still married when Michelle Baker told him she was pregnant with his child. Muntzing, who wanted to reconcile with his estranged wife, Tammy, asked Baker to get an abortion and she refused.
One of the side effects of the medication Muntzing put in Baker's drink was miscarriage, and two months later she lost the child she was carrying. Muntzing was arrested in August 2000 after police, observing him through a pinhole video camera, saw him tamper with another drink meant for Baker in her kitchen.
Baker was never charged with the fetus' death because coroners could not definitively tie the miscarriage to the medication placed in Baker's drink. However, Baker is suing Maynard and his wife — who admitted obtaining the medication for her husband — for wrongful death.
Sometimes the actions are money-driven. Former rising NFL star Rae Carruth was convicted of conspiracy in 2000 for hiring a man to shoot and kill his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams, because, prosecutors said, he didn't want to pay child support. Their child survived the attack, but he was born with cerebral palsy.
In the case of Charles Stuart, the Massachusetts man who killed his pregnant wife in 1989 and committed suicide before he could be formally charged, his younger brother claimed he wanted the insurance money.
"Sometimes the husband or boyfriend can feel the stress of having a family, like they can't afford to have a baby right now and a family," said Radford University's Burke. "A lot is made about insurance policies being taken out at the time, but really, taking out an insurance policy during pregnancy would be the time to do it. When it's just the two of you and you're young, you feel invincible. But when you have a child on the way, you begin to think about, 'What happens if something happens to me? How will my child be taken care of?' "
Still, most families never see trouble coming. Charles Stuart's in-laws stood by him and believed his claim that a black man wounded him and gunned down Carol DiMaiti Stuart during a robbery.