Published November 20, 2014
A western Indiana woman who acknowledged that she stabbed a couple while trying to kidnap their month-old son so she could pass the boy off as her own was sentenced Friday to 28 years in prison.
A Vigo County judge sentenced Stephanie Foster, 36, to a term of 30 years, with two years suspended.
In imposing the sentence, Judge Michael Lewis cited the fact that Foster planned the attempted baby snatching, as well as the physical and emotional harm that the couple suffered.
"I remember when my first child was born. It was the best time in my life. You took that away from these people," Lewis said.
Foster's father, Steve Silbers of Midlothian, Texas, apologized to Ashley and Michael Speer for his daughter's actions. He said Foster's family had known she was suffering from depression and feelings of low self-worth because she had been unable to have a child with her second husband, but said the family was shocked by her actions.
"I am sorry that she hurt you," he told the couple.
Defense attorney Michael Wright told the judge last year that he had planned to offer an insanity defense for Foster, who prosecutors said faked pregnancy while plotting to steal a baby following a 2009 miscarriage.
But on Friday, Wright asked for leniency, because two doctors had found indications that Foster was mentally ill at the time of the attack. He also noted that Foster had no previous felony convictions and had a clean record while in jail.
"It's clear to me that she's a much better person than the person that committed this terrible crime," Wright said.
Lewis, however, said Foster's mental illness wasn't a significant enough factor to warrant a reduced sentence.
Foster read a brief statement in court, but did not look at the Speers.
"I wish to God that I could take it back and do something different," she said. "I'm sorry. I don't know what else to say."
The Terre Haute resident pleaded guilty May 14 to a felony charge of armed robbery resulting in serious bodily injury in the June 2010 attack. In return, prosecutors agreed to drop charges of attempted murder and aggravated battery.
She has been in custody since she was arrested at the couple's Prairie Creek home.
The prosecutor's office said Foster will be returned to jail and then be transferred to Department of Correction, where she will be assigned to a prison.
Police said Foster suffered a miscarriage in 2009 and then spent months stuffing a pillow inside her clothes to feign pregnancy to her husband and others, all while plotting to kidnap a child.
Foster targeted Ashley and Michael Speer after spotting a newspaper birth announcement of their son, police said. Ashley Speer let Foster into the family's home after Foster asked to use the phone while the baby was sleeping in the living room and Michael Speer, who worked nights, was asleep in a bedroom.
Foster allegedly dialed a random number, then hung up and left briefly before returning with what police described as a pellet gun from her car.
Investigators said Foster pulled out a knife and began stabbing Ashley Speer as the new mother pleaded for Foster not to hurt her or the baby. Michael Speer heard the attack and was stabbed while subduing Foster, police said.
Ashley Speer was hospitalized with stab wounds to her arms and back, while Michael Speer was treated for cuts to his arms and stomach. The child wasn't injured.
Prosecutor Terry Modisett read statements from the Speers on Friday. He said Michael Speer recalled waking up to find his wife "fighting off a strange woman who was screaming and fighting with her."
He said blood stains are still visible on the couple's carpet, because they can't afford to replace it due to their medical bills.
Ashley Speer said she suffered a chipped vertebrae, collapsed lung and a serious arm injury that restricted her movement. She said she wasn't able to see her son while she was in intensive care and couldn't hold him for six weeks after the attack.
She said going into public now is different.
"When people look at my son, I feel as if I have to be on guard because they might take him," she said.
Associated Press photographer Michael Conroy in Terre Haute contributed to this report.