BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado woman who prosecutors said was obsessed with having a baby and concocted elaborate lies to convince those close to her that she was pregnant was convicted Tuesday of cutting a nearly 8-month-old fetus from a stranger’s womb.
The case against Dynel Lane, 36, who lured Michelle Wilkins to her home with a Craigslist ad for maternity clothes, attracted international attention and reignited a national debate over the legal rights of fetuses.
Jurors convicted Lane of attempted first-degree murder, assault and unlawful termination of a pregnancy in the March 2015 attack on Michelle Wilkins. Prosecutors say they were not able to charge her with murder in the death of the unborn girl because a coroner found no evidence the fetus lived outside the womb.
Wilkins, 27, said she thought of the child she had planned to name Aurora as she sat in the courtroom, clasping the hand of her father, Mark Wilkins.
The verdict “felt like a triumph for justice, for Aurora, for myself and the community,” Wilkins said, who was composed in court but had to pause to gather herself several times while talking to reporters.
“I do not hate Dynel,” Wilkins said. “But I am angry for all the pain she has caused, the deceit and for her selfishness.”
Lane sat straight and quiet next to her public defenders as the judge read the verdict from the jury of seven women and five men who deliberated for about seven hours over two days. Judge Maria Berkenkotter ordered her held until sentencing, set for April 29.
She could face a prison sentence between 16 and 120 years, District Attorney Stan Garnett said after the verdict. He said he had not yet decided what sentence to seek.
Garnett said he could not charge Lane with murder for the death of a fetus, which led Colorado Republicans to introduce legislation that would have allowed him to do so. 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 over the objection of many abortion-rights supporters.
Lane’s attorneys left court without commenting. During the trial, they did not dispute that she attacked Wilkins but argued there was no evidence it was a calculated murder attempt. They said the assault was haphazard and impulsive and urged jurors to convict Lane of the lesser charge of attempted manslaughter.
Lane had posted online photos of herself with a distended belly and sent the man she said was the father of her child ultrasound images downloaded from the Internet. David Ridley, who lived with Lane and her two daughters, testified at trial that Lane claimed for more than a year that she was expecting a boy, whom they planned to name James. Friends even threw a baby shower.
Ridley had grown suspicious by the time Lane lured Wilkins to her Longmont home. Wilkins testified that they chatted for about an hour before Lane hit, pushed and tried to choke her, then used two kitchen knives to cut the baby from her womb.
When Ridley came home early from work that day to meet Lane for a doctor’s appointment, he said he found the fetus in a bathtub and drove the child and Lane to a hospital, where she begged staff to save her baby.
Lane said nothing to Ridley about Wilkins, who was unconscious at her home. Wilkins regained consciousness and called police.
In 2002, Lane’s 19-month-old son drowned in what investigators ruled was an accident.