BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Dynel Lane went to extreme lengths to show those closest to her she was expecting a baby, sharing ultrasound images with her daughter and keeping photos of herself appearing pregnant on her cell phone.
She even arranged to meet her husband for a pre-natal appointment the same day prosecutors say she cut open the belly of a pregnant stranger and removed the woman’s unborn baby girl, passing the child off as her own before admitting the March 18, 2015 attack.
Michelle Wilkins, who was 8 months pregnant, survived, but the unborn baby did not.
Jurors will hear opening statements Wednesday in the gruesome case, which stunned the foothills community of Longmont and reignited a highly charged debate playing out across the country over when a fetus can legally be considered a human being. District Attorney Stan Garnett said he could not charge Lane, 35, with murder because a coroner found no evidence the fetus lived outside the womb.
That roiled anti-abortion groups and prompted Colorado Republicans to introduce legislation that would have allowed prosecutors to file murder charges for killing a fetus, but Democrats rejected the measure. 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.
Lane was charged instead with attempted first-degree murder, assault and unlawful termination of a pregnancy, a criminal charge filed under a new law intended to be a compromise between opponents and supporters of abortion rights. The maximum punishment under that provision is 32 years in prison
Lane pleaded not guilty, but her attorneys have not revealed much about her defense. They said in court documents that they are not presenting a mental health case during the 10-day trial but may call witnesses who can testify about Lane’s behavior the day of the attack.
Lane is accused of luring Wilkins, then 26, to a basement with a Craigslist ad for baby clothes. Prosecutors say she then attacked Wilkins, cut her with a broken piece of glass and removed the baby using a kitchen knife and with such precision that authorities initially wondered if she had knowledge of how to perform a Caesarian section.
When Lane’s husband 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.