Annette Morales-Rodriguez: Trial for Wisconsin fetus abduction, murder suspect set to begin

Annette Morales-Rodriguez
Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office
Annette Morales-Rodriguez
Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office

(CBS/AP) MILWAUKEE - The trial is expected to begin today for Annette Morales-Rodriguez, who is accused of killing Maritza Ramirez-Cruz and her unborn child by cutting the full-term fetus from the young mother's womb.

Morales-Rodriguez, 34, is accused of faking a pregnancy and luring 23-year-old Ramirez-Cruz to her house in October 2011. She attacked the young mother with a baseball bat, choked her and then used an X-Acto knife to cut the fetus out, according to the criminal complaint.

Court documents stated that Morales-Rodriguez had a couple of miscarriages and her boyfriend wanted a son. Prosecutors said for two weeks she planned to look for a pregnant woman and take her baby. She found Ramirez-Cruz, who was due any day, around a nonprofit organization that provided Hispanics with social services and offered her a ride.

Ramirez-Cruz died of blood loss and asphyxiation, and her fetus, a boy, died as a result of her death, authorities said. She is survived by her husband, Christian Mercado, and their three children, who are receiving psychiatric help to deal with the horrors.

Carlos Mercado, and his fiancee, Darla Gutierrez, moved into the apartment below his son's shortly after the October 2011 attack to help care for his son and the children - daughters ages 5 and 7, and a 3-year-old son - who still don't understand what happened.

" 'Where's mom? When is she coming home?' They are too young to comprehend that," Gutierrez said.

Morales-Rodriguez 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. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.

Her original lawyers had planned to use an insanity defense, but her new lawyers changed her plea Thursday to not guilty. A court-ordered doctor didn't find evidence to support the insanity plea.

Gutierrez and Carlos Mercado said they hope the trial brings peace of mind to the family.

"They are just dragging it on and dragging it on and the family needs closure," Gutierrez said.

Mercado said he will be at his son's side during the trial.

"I have to go with him," he said, as he wiped away tears. "It's going to be hard for me and hard for him. I have to help him."

The trial is expected to last a week, with the state calling 25 to 30 witnesses. Prosecutor Mark Williams said he plans to play Morales-Rodriguez's videotaped confession to police.

Mercado and Gutierrez said they don't think they could ever forgive her and hope she is convicted and gets life without parole.

"I want the judge to recognize what she did and give her what she deserves," Mercado said.

More on Crimesider
Oct. 20, 2011 - Wisc. woman charged with murder for cutting out another woman's fetus might plead insanity
Oct. 11, 2011 - Wisc. woman Annette Morales-Rodriguez charged with murder for cutting out another woman's fetus