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Prosecutor: Mom plotted to kill pregnant Chicago woman, steal baby
This booking photo provided by the Chicago Police Department, Thursday, May 16, 2019, shows Clarisa Figueroa, who is charged in the death of 19-year-old expectant mother, Marlen Ochoa-Lopez. First-degree murder charges have been filed against Figueroa and her daughter Desiree Figueroa in connection with the death of Ochoa-Lopez, whose body was discovered earlier in the week, strangled before her baby was cut from her womb. (Chicago Police Department via AP)
Michael Tarm, The Associated Press
Published Friday, May 17, 2019 2:13PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 17, 2019 7:43PM EDT
CHICAGO -- A mother plotted for months to acquire a newborn before she and her daughter strangled a pregnant Chicago woman and cut her baby from her womb using a butcher's knife, prosecutors said Friday as they revealed gruesome new details about the case.
Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, 19, was lured to the home where Clarisa Figueroa lived with her daughter, Desiree, by Facebook postings offering free baby clothes. When she arrived, the daughter showed her a photo album of her late brother to distract her as her mother started trying to strangle her with a chord, prosecutor Jim Murphy said.
When Ochoa-Lopez managed to get her fingers under the cord, Clarisa Figueroa yelled at her 24-year-old daughter -- "You're not doing your f---ing job!" The daughter then pried Ochoa-Lopez's fingers from the cord "one by one" while her mother continued to strangle the teen for another five minutes, Murphy said.
Once Ochoa-Lopez showed no signs of life, Clarisa Figueroa cut her open with a butcher's knife, removed the placenta and the baby, then put the baby in a bucket with the umbilical cord still attached, said Murphy, reading from court documents .
The plot may have originated in late 2018, when Clarisa Figueroa told her family she was pregnant and later posted on Facebook an ultrasound and photos of a room decorated for a baby. Desiree Figueroa was surprised, Murphy said, because her mother had previously had her fallopian tubes tied to prevent pregnancy.
Prosecutors highlighted that Clarisa Figueroa made the announcement about being pregnant not long after one of her adult sons had died of natural causes.
Clarisa Figueroa connected with Ochoa-Lopez on March 5 via a Facebook page for pregnant women. "Who is due in May?" Clarisa Figueroa asked in one message. "Where is the May mammas at?" Ochoa-Lopez, seven months' pregnant at the time, responded, and Clarisa Figueroa made the offer of free clothes, prosecutors said.
When Clarisa Figueroa first asked her daughter to help her kill someone to get a baby, the daughter initially said no, Murphy said. He also revealed publicly for the first time that Desiree Figueroa is four months' pregnant.
They first met with Ochoa-Lopez around April 1, though she left unharmed that day. Desiree Figueroa had told her boyfriend about her mother's intention to kill Ochoa-Lopez and warned her he would call police if they harmed the young woman. The prosecutor said Clarisa Figueroa later told the boyfriend the whole scheme had been an April Fool's joke.
Ochoa-Lopez was killed when she returned a second time on April 23. After killing her, the mother and daughter allegedly wrapped her in a blanket and put the body into a large plastic bag. They then dragged it outside and placed it in a garbage can in a hidden area next to their garage on Chicago's Southwest Side, about 4 miles from Ochoa-Lopez's own home.
Clarisa Figueroa then called 911, claiming that her newborn baby was not breathing, authorities said. When first responders arrived, the child was blue. They tried to resuscitate the infant and transported Clarisa Figueroa and the boy to a nearby hospital. Figueroa had blood on her upper body but no physical sign that she had given birth, according to investigators.
The boy remained hospitalized Friday in grave condition and was not expected to survive, police said.
Cook County Judge Susana Ortiz denied bond to the Figueroas, who are charged with murder, saying she felt "the presumption is great" that they committed a "heinous and brutal murder" and that they pose "a real and present" danger to the community. She also denied bond to Clarisa Figueroa's boyfriend, 40-year-old Piotr Bobak, who is charged with the concealment of a homicide.
The mother's lawyer asked Ortiz to place the Figueroas in protective custody for their safety from other inmates, given "the nature of the case." The Figueroas stood calmly during the hearing. As they left, the mother glanced back at the crowded gallery, where the victim's friends and relatives packed the spectator benches.
The arrests came three weeks after the disappearance of Ochoa-Lopez, whose decaying body was discovered this week with the cord still around her neck.
Police did not connect Ochoa-Lopez's disappearance and the 911 call about the baby until May 7, when friends of the teen directed detectives to her social media account, which showed she had communicated with Clarisa Figueroa.
At the same time, Clarisa Figueroa had started a GoFundMe campaign for the funeral of what she said was her dying baby, said Sara Walker, a spokeswoman for Ochoa-Lopez's family. Police then conducted DNA tests, which showed that Ochoa-Lopez and her husband, Yiovanni Lopez, were actually his parents, Walker said.
When police arrived to question Clarisa Figueroa, her daughter told them that her mother was in the hospital with some kind of leg injury, before adding that she had just delivered a baby, Brendan Deenihan, deputy chief of detectives, said Thursday.
Police then searched the neighbourhood and found Ochoa-Lopez's car a few blocks away. On Tuesday they returned with a search warrant, finding cleaning supplies as well as evidence of blood in the hallway and in the bathroom.
Ochoa-Lopez's family had been looking for her since her disappearance on April 23, organizing search parties and holding news conferences as they pushed police for updates in the investigation.
Ochoa-Lopez's mother, Raquel Uriostegui, said her daughter was born in Mexico and came to the United States when she was 2.
"My daughter was a very joyful girl. She had a lot of dreams," Uriostegui said.
"She wanted to do great things, like all of us," added her husband, Yiovanni Lopez.