Wednesday 16 October 2019

Woman charged with murder after allegedly strangling pregnant teenager and cutting baby from her womb

  • WARNING: This article contains details some readers may find distressing
Marlen Ochoa-Lopez's body was found early on Wednesday
Marlen Ochoa-Lopez's body was found early on Wednesday

Victoria Gagliardo-Silver

A Chicago woman has been charged with murder after allegedly strangling a pregnant teenager and cutting the baby from her womb.

Clarisa Figueroa, 46, had previously sold baby clothes to 19-year-old Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, and lured her back to her house with an offer of more clothing, investigators said.

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Clarisa Figueroa (Chicago Police Department/AP)

They added that Figueroa apparently wanted to raise another child two years after her adult son died of natural causes.

“Words cannot express how disgusting and thoroughly disturbing these allegations are,” Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters at a news conference to announce murder charges against Figueroa and her 24-year-old daughter, Desiree Figueroa.

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Desiree Figueroa (Chicago Police Department/AP)

The mother’s boyfriend, 40-year-old Piotr Bobak, was charged with concealment of a homicide.

The charges come three weeks after Ms Ochoa-Lopez disappeared and a day after her body was discovered in a bin in the back yard of Figueroa’s home on the city’s Southwest Side, about four miles from her own home.

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Piotr Bobak (Chicago Police Department/AP)

According to police, the young woman drove from her high school to Figueroa’s home in response to an offer of free clothes that Clarisa Figueroa had posted on Facebook. When she arrived, police said, she was strangled with a cord and the baby cut from her body.

A few hours later, Clarisa Figueroa frantically called 911, claiming that her newborn baby was not breathing.

When first responders arrived, the boy was blue. They tried to resuscitate him and took him to hospital, where police said he remained in grave condition and was not expected to survive.

Police did not connect the woman’s disappearance and the 911 call about the baby until May 7, when friends of Ms Ochoa-Lopez directed detectives to her social media account, which showed she had communicated with Clarisa Figueroa in a Facebook group for expectant mothers.

At the same time, Clarisa Figueroa had started a GoFundMe campaign for the funeral of what she said was her dying baby, said Sara Walker, a spokeswoman for Ms Ochoa-Lopez’s family.

Police then conducted DNA tests which showed Ms Ochoa-Lopez and her husband, Yiovanni Lopez, were the baby’s parents, Ms Walker said.

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Yiovanni Lopez (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times/AP)

When police arrived to question Clarisa Figueroa, her daughter said her mother was in hospital with a leg injury, before adding she had just delivered a baby, said Brendan Deenihan, deputy chief of detectives.

Police searched the neighbourhood and found Ms Ochoa-Lopez’s car a few blocks away. On Tuesday, they returned with a search warrant, finding cleaning supplies as well as evidence of blood in the hallway and the bathroom.

They later found the body in a waste bin behind the house and recovered surveillance video that showed Ms Ochoa-Lopez’s vehicle driving through the neighbourhood on the day they believed she was killed, authorities said.

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Missing person notice for Marlen Ochoa-Lopez (Chicago Police/Chicago Tribune/AP)

Ms Ochoa-Lopez’s family had been looking for her since her disappearance on April 23, organising search parties and holding news conferences as they pushed police for updates.

Her father, Arnulfo Ochoa, said relatives were grateful to have found her, and now they want justice. The family was also bracing for the baby’s death, while still hoping for a miracle.

“We plead to God that he gives us our child because that is a blessing that my wife left for us,” Mr Lopez told reporters through a Spanish interpreter outside the morgue where his wife’s body was taken.

The three suspects are scheduled to appear in court on June 3.

PA Media

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