A US woman accused of killing her pregnant friend three months after her own miscarriage has been convicted of beating and strangling her, then cutting the baby from her womb and passing the child off as her daughter.
Julie Corey sobbed as a Worcester Superior Court jury found her guilty on Wednesday (local time) of the 2009 murder of 23-year-old Darlene Haynes. The jurors had deliberated for 10 hours over two days. Sentencing was scheduled for Tuesday.
Prosecutors said Haynes was eight months pregnant when Corey attacked her and cut the baby out of her body. They told the jury that Corey had been pregnant, too, but had a miscarriage three months earlier and told her boyfriend and family that Haynes' baby was her own.
"It's probably the most horrific case this office has ever seen in terms of facts," District Attorney Joseph Early Jr said in a statement after the verdict was handed down. "This woman was killed for her baby."
Corey, 39, did not testify during the trial.
Corey's lawyers contended that police failed to follow up on leads that could have implicated other potential suspects in the killing, including Haynes' ex-boyfriend. They also suggested that Haynes' ex-boyfriend had given Corey and her boyfriend, Alex Dion, the baby. Dion denied that on the witness stand.
Defence lawyer Michael Wilcox said he was disappointed with the verdict, but not surprised. He said they plan to appeal.
"We were aware of the evidence against her," Wilcox said, adding that the facts alone in the case were difficult to discuss. "We worked very hard to present the jury with a different picture, but we weren't ultimately successful."
Wilcox said he would not comment on Corey's reaction but said it was understandable that she was upset.
"She faced the somber realisation that she will spend the rest of her life in prison," he said.
Haynes' body was found in a closet in her apartment on July 27, 2009. She had been beaten in the head and strangled with an electrical cord. Her abdomen had been cut open, and her baby was gone.
Corey, Dion and Haynes' baby were found two days later at a homeless shelter in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Her lawyers acknowledged that she was found with the baby but said she played no role in Haynes' slaying.
Dion testified that Corey, whom he believed was pregnant at the time, called him on July 23, 2009, and told him she was giving Haynes a ride to a store. Later that night, Corey called him to say her water had broken and a friend was taking her to the hospital to give birth, Dion said.
A couple of hours later, Corey called him again and said, "we had a baby", Dion testified. Dion said Corey arrived home the next morning with a baby girl he believed was his daughter. He said he and Corey introduced the baby to family and friends over the next couple of days.
The girl, now 4, lives with her biological father.