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Fetus cut from woman's womb

india Updated: Oct 06, 2006 19:25 IST

A woman who confessed to cutting a fetus from the womb of her childhood friend and then killing the friend's three children pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder.

Tiffany Hall, 24, first confessed to her boyfriend on Thursday that the stillborn baby he had flown home from the navy to bury was not his. It was, in fact, the child of her friend Jimella Tunstall, 23, who bled to death after the fetus was removed from her stomach with scissors.

Hall's boyfriend called police who started a frantic search for Tunstall's three children -- DeMond, seven; Ivan, 2; and Jinela, one, -- after her body was discovered in a park.

On Saturday, Hall told police that she had drowned the children and stuffed their naked bodies into Tunstall's washer and dryer. Police had searched the apartment, but only to find pictures of the children to release to the media.

"You wouldn't look into the washer or dryer," St. Clair County Assistant Coroner Ace Hart said Sunday. "You wouldn't think that's where they would be."

Hall's court-appointed attorney on Monday asked a judge to have his client psychologically evaluated and jailed separately from other prisoners for her safety.

"We'll have to look and see whether she could have possibly understood her rights and warnings given to her as to rights to have counsel present while she was being interrogated," Randall Kelly told reporters after the arraignment.

Police said Hall told them she tried to take Tunstall's child to replace a baby she had lost to miscarriage.

She first came to the attention of police on September 15 when she called from the park where her friend's body was found and told them that she had given birth after having sex with a man named Tony.

When police and an ambulance arrived they found her with a stillborn baby who seemed normal with no signs of trauma. Hall then told police she had been raped but refused to be examined and the baby was released after an autopsy.

Hall has not yet been charged in relation to the death of the three children who were last seen in her presence on September 18. She could face the death penalty if convicted of killing Tunstall, St. Clair County's State's Attorney Robert Haida told reporters. The murder charge related to the death of the fetus is not a capital offense, he added.

The slaying came just days after a woman in Missouri had her throat slashed and newborn baby kidnapped. The woman survived the attack and her baby was found and returned in good health Wednesday after the abductor's sister-in-law called police.