Woman Who Stole Fetus Charged With First Degree Homicide

PHOTO: Annette Morales-Rodriguez has been charged with two counts of first degree homicide for the murder of a pregnant mother and her fetus.PlayMilwaukee County Sheriffs Office
WATCH Mother, Baby Dead in Fetal Abduction

A Milwaukee mother of three who was desperate to give her boyfriend a son allegedly hunted for pregnant women until she found one alone, clubbed her with a bat, strangled her and used an Exacto knife to steal her fetus.

The mother and fetus died, and Annette Morales-Rodriguez, 33, was charged today with two counts of murder.

The victim, Maritza Ramirez-Cruz, was 23, the mother of three children, and was just days away from giving birth.

Morales-Rodriguez called 911 Thursday to claim that she had given birth in the shower, but that her baby boy wasn't breathing. She was taken to St. Francis Hospital and the baby was taken to the medical examiner's office according to the District Attorney's charging document, which outlines the disturbing details.

At the hospital, Morales-Rodriguez told a detective that she had given birth in her living room and said at the time that she didn't realize she was pregnant, the DA's criminal complaint states. After the interview, she left the hospital before being fully examined.

The medical examiner's office found the baby had been removed "by force," and that the mother's uterus and parts of her ovaries were still attached to the baby, which was about 38 to 42 weeks old when it died.

Police officers showed up at Morales-Rodriguez's home on Friday and took her to get another medical evaluation. While at the hospital Morales-Rodriguez entered a bathroom and scratched the inside of her vaginal wall until she bled, police said. She told doctors she was bleeding, and during that examination doctors discovered she had not recently given birth, according to the police report. Police took Moralez-Rodriguez into custody.

According to the charging document, she told police "her boyfriend wanted a son and she could not get pregnant." She told him she was pregnant anyway and then "began to panic because she knew she was not."

On Oct. 5, "she decided she was going to find a pregnant woman … take the baby and make it hers." That day she didn't find one, but on Oct. 6, while driving near an agency that catered to pregnant women, she found Ramirez-Cruz, and offered her a ride. Morales-Rodriguez said the two had never met.

"She stated before she did this she thought about telling her boyfriend the truth … but couldn't do it," the charging document states.

After driving the victim to a nearby drugstore to get nausea medication, Morales-Rodriguez told Ramirez-Cruz she needed to go home and change her shoes. The victim followed her inside to use the bathroom. When Ramirez-Cruz emerged from the bathroom, "the defendant hit [her]several times in the head with a baseball bat," the report states.

A struggle ensued, and Morales-Rodriguez allegedly hit the victim one more time and "squeezed [her] around the throat until she was no longer conscious." The Medical Examiner determined Ramirez-Cruz died from loss of blood and asphyxiation by manual strangulation.

The DA's office alleges Morales-Rodriguez bound the victim's hands and feet with duct tape and put more tape over her mouth and nose.

At that point, "she took an Exacto knife and cut [her] abdomen" attempting to "duplicate the [cesearean] process she had seen on the Discovery Channel."

She cut out the placenta, then dragged the victim's body to the basement, hiding her near the hot water heater.

During her confession, Morales-Rodriguez told police said she cut her hands while trying to remove the baby and showed detectives the cuts, then worried that "her children would think their mother was a killer," the charging document states.

The suspect is the mother of three other children, neighbors said.

ABC News affiliate WISN reported Morales-Rodriguez had fooled her boyfriend into believing the child was his.

Last week he wrote on his Facebook page, "My child was born yesterday and he died an hour after birth. He would have been so cute. My woman is shattered, she doesn't stop crying."

Over the weekend, neighbors who lived near Morales-Rodriguez told WISN they were shocked.

Jacqueline Bonilla told WISN, "There's no way, shape or form somebody should hurt somebody else and take somebody's baby just to have one for themselves."

Neighbor Nicole Soto, interviewed while holding her 1-year-old son, had thought Morales-Rodriguez was pregnant.

"She was rubbing her belly all the time. She was telling everyone she was, she was getting bigger," Soto said.

Keila Perez, who shares a backyard with Morales-Rodriguez, told the station, "It's horrible I can't even … I can't think of it I just can't see her doing anything like that."

"She's the godmother of my daughter, she has three beautiful kids that she raised by herself and she's been basically married for four years," said Perez. "To me she's a good woman, she's never been in no problems."

The rare crime generated headlines a few years ago when a pregnant woman -- also 23 years old -- was murdered in Worcester, Mass. Her baby was later found alive in a New Hampshire hospital.

In this case, however, Christian Mercado, the husband of Ramirez-Cruz, must now plan two funerals.

His stepmother, Darla Guiterrez, spoke to NBC affiliate WTMJ on his behalfbecause Mercado does not speak English.

"He wants everybody to remember that she was a good person. She never did anything bad to anybody and she would help anybody out if they needed help," Guiterrez said, adding that the family did not know the suspect.

"We still can't believe it. We know it's true but we can't believe it and the whole family is taking it real hard," Guiterrez said.