DENVER – Prosecutors say a Colorado woman accused of removing a baby from an expectant mother's belly will not face murder charges, but they have not explained the decision or disclosed what charges she will face.
Investigators say Dynel Lane lured Michelle Wilkins, 26, to her Longmont home March 18 with an ad on Craigslist offering baby clothes. Inside, police say, Lane attacked Wilkins and cut the unborn baby girl from her belly.
Lane's husband found the infant in a bathtub and rushed the child to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Wilkins survived the attack and was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday.
Catherine Olguin, a spokeswoman for the Boulder County District Attorney's Office, said Thursday night that prosecutors won't bring the murder charge in the baby's death.
District Attorney Stan Garnett is expected to release more information Friday about that decision, and the coroner's office is expected to release the findings of an autopsy performed on the baby.
After rejecting a fetal homicide law in 2013, Colorado legislators did pass a measure that makes it a felony to violently cause the death of a mother's fetus. The maximum punishment under that provision is 32 years in prison. The maximum punishment for homicide in Colorado is the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The gruesome attack revived the highly-charged debate over when a fetus can legally be considered a human being.
Even though the baby girl died, legal experts say the situation is complicated by the fact that Colorado is one of 12 states that do not have laws making the violent death of an unborn child a homicide. State legislators in 2013 voted down such a measure over fears it would interfere with abortion rights, and voters overwhelmingly agreed when they rejected a similar ballot measure in 2014.
Advocates say the attack shows the need for a fetal homicide law.
Legal experts say a person can still be charged with homicide for an unborn child's death under existing Colorado law if the baby was alive outside the mother's body and the act that led to its death also occurred there.