Life sentence for ripping baby from womb

AN ALABAMA woman has been sentenced to life imprisonment for killing a pregnant teenager and stealing the still-living foetus from her womb so she could pretend she was the child's mother. The decision disappointed prosecutors who were seeking the death penalty.

The sentencing of Felecia Scott, 31, closes a case that drew wide attention because of the ghoulish nature of the crime. Reading the sentence in a Tuscaloosa courthouse in Alabama on Monday, Judge Gay Lake said he was taking guidance from jurors who had asked that her life be spared.

Scott, who showed no emotion as the sentence was read, was originally convicted in September of fatally shooting 17-year-old Carethia Curry and slicing out the foetus she was carrying by a crude Caesarean section. The child is now two-and-a-half years old and is living with her father.

Scott, who has two children of her own, had a hysterectomy five years ago. Prosecutors said that she had become obsessed by her inability to have a third child.

They described how Scott befriended Ms Curry when she discovered she was pregnant. On 31 January 1996, with help from her then boyfriend, Frederick Polion, Scott abducted Ms Curry, shot her twice in the head and proceeded to remove the foetus. According to doctors who testified at the trial, Ms Curry's heart was still beating as her child was cut from her.

Polion was convicted in a separate trial this year of helping Scott to kidnap Ms Curry but was acquitted of a charge of murder. After Scott had stuffed Ms Curry's body into a garbage bin, Polion disposed of the bin in a mountain ravine. He said, however, that he did not know that Curry's body was inside.

Before the murder, Scott had pretended to her friends and family that she was pregnant. Afterwards, she showed off the child as if she had just delivered it.

She and Polion fell under suspicion after the mutilated body of Ms Curry was discovered in the ravine. Police also found traces of Ms Curry's blood in Polion's car as well as diagrams of how to perform a Caesarean. Polion was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but is currently free on bond.

Ms Curry's mother, Carolyn O'Neal, expressed anguish that Scott had escaped the death penalty. "She not only took my daughter, she took my grandbaby from me," she said.

Scott said she planned to appeal against her conviction.