BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – A woman who had her baby cut from her womb by someone she just met testified Wednesday she told herself she had to survive for the sake of her unborn daughter and tried to fight back.
But Michelle Wilkins said Dynel Lane continued to choke and beat her in the March 18, 2015, attack, and she eventually lost consciousness. When she came to, she said, she was bleeding profusely from her abdomen and called 911.
Wilkins’ child didn’t survive — something Wilkins learned the next day in the hospital. Lane was charged with attempted first-degree murder, assault and unlawful termination of a pregnancy.
The case revived debate over the legal rights of fetuses and brought calls for a murder charge, which prosecutors said they couldn’t file because a coroner found no evidence the fetus lived outside the womb. Testimony in the trial began Wednesday and is expected to continue into next week.
Wilkins testified she went to Lane’s home in response to a Craigslist ad offering free maternity clothes. She was 7 1/2 months pregnant.
She and Lane chatted for more than an hour before Lane took her to the basement to look at baby clothes.
When she tried to leave, Wilkins said, Lane began hitting, pushing and choking her. Lane then hit her over the head with what turned out to be a lava lamp.
“I just remember asking her why she was doing that,” Wilkins said. She told Lane she loved her, hoping she would stop.
Lane replied, “‘If you love me, you’ll let me do this,'” and stabbed her in the neck with a piece of broken glass, Wilkins testified.
Wilkins, now 27, testified in a trembling voice but remained calm and composed. She appeared to be near tears twice — when District Attorney Stan Garnett showed her photos of herself when she was pregnant and when she described learning her baby hadn’t survived.
Wilkins glanced at Lane only briefly, when Garnett asked her to identify her attacker.
Lane had no visible reaction and sat with her eyes cast downward. Lane wore a gray pantsuit and a blue button-down shirt in court and wasn’t handcuffed.
In his opening statements, Garnett said Lane was obsessed with pregnancy and took elaborate measures to convince friends and family that she was expecting. She posted online photos of herself with a distended belly and claimed for more than a year that she was having a boy, Garnett said.
Her longtime boyfriend, David Ridley, testified that she sent him photos of herself with a distended belly and claimed for more than a year that she was having a boy.
Lane’s friends even threw her a baby shower, Garnett said.
But Ridley said he grew suspicious when Lane’s due date kept changing and she refused to go with him to see a doctor. She had told him when they started dating that she had had tubal ligation and could not get pregnant, so he was happy when she announced in April 2014 that she was expecting a boy.
Ridley said he planned to take Lane to a pre-natal appointment the day of the attack, but arrived home to find her spattered with blood and a baby in his bathtub. He said he picked the baby up and checked for signs of life.
Defense attorney Jennifer Beck said in her opening statements that evidence shows Lane didn’t plan the attack and never intended to kill Wilkins.
Beck described the attack as chaotic and frantic.
Prosecutors say Lane hit Wilkins with a lamp, cut her with a broken piece of glass and removed the baby using two kitchen knives.
When Lane’s partner came home early from work to meet her for a prenatal appointment, he found the infant in a bathtub, according to police. He drove them both to a hospital, where Lane, holding the still-wrapped baby, told staff she had suffered a miscarriage.
Police said she then admitted the child wasn’t hers.
The case roiled anti-abortion groups because Lane wasn’t charged with murder. Garnett said he couldn’t file a murder charge because a coroner found no evidence the fetus lived outside the womb.
That prompted Colorado Republicans to introduce legislation that would have allowed prosecutors to file murder charges for killing a fetus, but Democrats rejected it. It was the third time such a proposal failed in Colorado, setting it apart from 38 states that have made the killing of a fetus a homicide.
The charge of unlawful termination of a pregnancy that Lane faces is the result of a law intended to be a compromise between opponents and supporters of abortion rights. The maximum punishment is 32 years in prison.
By SADIE GURMAN, Associated Press
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