PITTSBURGH – A woman who lured a pregnant teenager to her apartment, drugged her, cut out her baby, then killed her and tried to pass the infant off as hers was found guilty but mentally ill of second-degree murder and kidnapping.
Monday's verdict against Andrea Curry-Demus, while supported by evidence of her long history of mental illness, was "perhaps more merciful than the defendant deserves," Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning said.
In finding Curry-Demus not guilty of first-degree murder, Manning said he wasn't satisfied that her psychotic delusions allowed her to form the intent to kill.
Curry-Demus, 40, of Wilkinsburg, will be formally sentenced in March, but the second-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life prison sentence without parole. She will serve part of her sentence in a prison mental hospital until doctors conclude her illness improves enough for her to serve the rest in prison.
Prosecutors sought a first-degree murder conviction, which would have carried the same penalty as the second-degree murder count because prosecutors weren't seeking the death penalty. The defense wanted her found not guilty by reason of insanity.
The family of the 18-year-old victim, Kia Johnson, of McKeesport, was relieved Curry-Demus will spend the rest of her life behind bars, but some members discounted her claims of mental illness.
"She's cold. She has ice running through her blood. For her to do something like this, you have to be a monster," said Johnson's mother, Darlene Lee, 45.
Manning, the prosecution and defense all agreed Curry-Demus was obsessed with babies. She has no children, but claimed to have had miscarriages and a baby who died of sudden infant death syndrome.
Curry-Demus met Johnson at the Allegheny County Jail in July 2008 while visiting different inmates. She had already been telling her family and friends that she was pregnant. She even put her name on another woman's ultrasound picture to show people and decorated a nursery.
Prosecutor Mark Tranquilli had evidence that showed Curry-Demus befriended Johnson with offers of clothes for her unborn son and offered her a ride home from the jail on July 15, 2008.
After getting Johnson to her Wilkinsburg apartment, Curry-Demus drugged her, bound her with duct tape and cut the baby from her. She wrapped Johnson's body in more tape, plastic wrap and bags and a comforter before stuffing it in a space behind Curry-Demus' bed.
Curry-Demus then told her sister, who lived across the hall, that she had just given birth. Her story began to unravel after hospital tests showed she wasn't the mother. She initially told police she bought the baby from a crack addict for $1,000, but police found Johnson's body after people began reporting a stench coming from her apartment.
Manning recounted those steps, saying they beckon responses such as, "She must be crazy."
"Being crazy, doing something insane, does not mean you are not criminally responsible," he said.
Lee said she hopes Curry-Demus gets no peace in prison and that she sees her daughter "when she lays down in the bed to go to sleep at night, when she wakes up in the morning." She also said she hopes to forgive Curry-Demus someday, saying harboring anger won't change anything.
Eric Johnson said his daughter volunteered with him at the local Salvation Army feeding the homeless and worked as candy striper at a hospital. He said he knows she is in heaven looking down on her son, Kian. The boy, 18 months old, is doing well and living with relatives, he said.
Curry-Demus chose to have Manning decide the case instead of a jury. He also found her guilty but mentally ill of unlawful restraint.
Her attorney, Christopher Patarini, said they were disappointed in the outcome, but he had not discussed with her the possibility of an appeal.
Johnson's killing was not the first time Curry-Demus tried to get an infant. In May 1990, she stabbed a woman in an apparent plot to steal her newborn and the next day kidnapped another baby from a hospital.
She pleaded guilty in January 1991 to kidnapping, concealing the whereabouts of a child and related offenses, and was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison. She also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was placed on probation for 10 years