CHICAGO (AFP, DPA) - Police in Chicago charged three people on Thursday (May 16) in connection with the murder of a pregnant teenager whose unborn baby was taken from her womb after her death.
Police said Ms Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, 19, who was lured to the home of someone she knew on April 23 with the promise of free baby supplies, was instead strangled to death, and her baby extracted from her womb.
Ms Ochoa-Lopez had previously been identified as Marlen Ochoa-Uriostegui. Uriostegui is her mother's name.
Clarisa Figueroa, 46, and her daughter Desiree, 24, have been charged with first degree murder. Piotr Bobak, 40, whom police described as the elder Figueroa’s boyfriend, was charged with concealing the murder.
At a news conference, Chicago police chief Eddie Johnson called the crime "disgusting and thoroughly disturbing".
"I can’t even pretend to imagine what that family is going through right now. They should be celebrating the birth of a young baby. Instead, they’re mourning the loss of the mother and possibly that young child," Mr Johnson said.
Police allegedly discovered Ms Ochoa-Lopez’s body hidden in a garbage can while serving a search warrant at Figueroa’s home on Tuesday (May 14) night.
“Apparently, Miss Ochoa had bought other baby items from Clarissa, so they knew each other,” deputy chief Brendan Deenihan said.
On the day of Ms Ochoa-Lopez’s disappearance, Figueroa allegedly spoke with her through Facebook.
The nine-months-pregnant teen went to Figueroa’s home expecting to gather some baby clothes and other donated items, police said.
Authorities allege Figueroa and her daughter Desiree strangled the expectant mother with a coaxial cable and extracted the baby.
Within four hours of when Ms Ochoa-Lopez was last spotted driving on a road by surveillance cameras, the elder Figueroa called emergency services claiming she had delivered a baby that was not breathing.
The child has been hospitalised and reportedly is in serious condition. Police declined to confirm the baby’s medical status.
The teen's family members said they have been told by police that the baby was on life support, with no brain function, at Advocate Christ Medical Centre in Oak Lawn. The family said it has named the baby Yadiel.
Police said their missing person case took a turn when they first learned of the Facebook conversation and interviewed the Figueroas on May 7.
They obtained a search warrant after DNA evidence proved the baby was related to Ms Ochoa-Lopez.
Ms Ochoa-Lopez, married with a three-year-old son, was last seen leaving Latino Youth High School in the Pilsen section on April 23 to pick up the boy from Teddy Bear Day Care at 51st Street and Pulaski Avenue, according to the police.
On May 8, more than two weeks after the ambulance call, Ms Ochoa-Lopez's black Honda Civic was found abandoned in the 7700 block of South Keeler Avenue, a few blocks from where her body was discovered.
On Tuesday afternoon, police officers were seen escorting several people from the home. The police department would only say that officers "are conducting interviews of individuals in regard to this missing person investigation".
About 12.10am on Wednesday (May 15), the medical examiner's office was notified of a body that had been found.
"The family has been on a roller coaster," said Ms Emma Lozano, a pastor at Lincoln United Methodist Church. "It's hard for them to find words. Everybody is struggling with this."
Shortly before news of Ms Ochoa-Lopez's slaying and identification broke on Wednesday evening, community members gathered at Lincoln United to pray for her and her family.
"My heart is bleeding," Ms Jacobita Cortes, a pastor at the church, said in Spanish.
Ms Cortes said the community has no other recourse but to pray and hope for Ms Ochoa-Lopez's family. Ms Cortes said she has been in communication with the family since the teen's disappearance.
"In Marlen's case, we take it like if it was happening to our own family," she said in Spanish. "We have looked for her and prayed for her. It is so difficult."
A similar case occurred in November 1995, when 28-year-old Debra Evans died of a gunshot wound before her assailants crudely cut a healthy, full-term foetus from her womb.
Ms Evans and her 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, were killed in their Addison apartment and Ms Evans' 7-year-old son, Joshua, was found slain in a Maywood alley.
The authorities alleged that Fedell Caffey, Jacqueline Annette Williams and Lavern Ward killed Ms Evans and Samantha, removed the foetus and abducted Joshua, leaving behind another son, 21-month-old Jordan.
The baby boy whom Ms Evans had been carrying survived. He was named Elijah, and he and Jordan were cared for by Ms Evans' family.