PITTSBURGH (AP) — Authorities say a slain pregnant woman may have been alive and was possibly drugged when a baby was ripped from her womb, allegedly by a woman who tried to pass the infant off as her own.
The eviscerated body of 18-year-old Kia Johnson of McKeesport was found bound at the wrists and ankles with duct tape, and wrapped in a comforter and garbage bags.
Her partially decomposed remains were in the master bedroom of Andrea Curry-Demus, 38, who was charged Sunday with homicide, unlawful restraint and kidnapping, officials said.
Authorities said Curry-Demus, who served prison time in the 1990s for snatching a 3-week-old baby girl from a hospital, took the baby boy to a Pittsburgh hospital and claimed that it was her own.
Authorities said Johnson was 36 weeks pregnant. Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said a “very sharp instrument” was used to cut open her belly.
Allegheny County medical examiner Dr. Karl E. Williams told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review he couldn’t be sure whether the woman was alive when she was cut open, although the baby could not have survived long inside the mother after she died.
“There is a certain window of opportunity,” Williams said. “The baby is depending on the mother being alive.”
Authorities are awaiting toxicology tests, which are expected to take several weeks.
“We will be looking for any drug that might have helped incapacitate her,” Williams said. “There is not a lot of evidence of a struggle having occurred. There is some evidence that there were drugs at the scene.”
The remains were identified through dental records, Williams said.
Video surveillance at the Allegheny County Jail shows Curry-Demus talking with Johnson for several minutes Tuesday afternoon, authorities said. The women were at the jail visiting different inmates, police said.
The victim’s cousin, Tereka Nesbit, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Johnson told an aunt about two weeks before she disappeared that she had met a couple of women in the jail’s visiting area and had gone to their homes after a jail visit.
“There’s no question she’s trusting,” said Nesbit, 33, of McKeesport. “She was so kind and sweet.” She said a grown man would not have been able to lure her cousin, “but a friendly woman would. She would have been thrilled to talk to anybody about (her) baby.”
Nesbit called her cousin’s death “unfathomable.”
“She suffered so much,” Nesbit said. “We’re sick about this.”
Authorities say that on Thursday, Curry-Demus showed up at West Penn Hospital with a newborn that still had the umbilical cord attached. Tests later proved that she was not the mother.
According to police, Curry-Demus initially told investigators that she paid a pregnant woman named Tina $1,000 for the baby. Curry-Demus was taken into custody on a child endangerment charge. Authorities found the remains Friday after reporters at the apartment building called police about a foul odor.
Wilkinsburg Police Chief Ophelia Coleman said Sunday the child was “under observation.” The hospital has declined to release any information about the child.
Curry-Demus remained in the county jail and it was not immediately clear whether she had an attorney. A lawyer who had represented her previously did not immediately return a phone call Sunday afternoon. No one was home at the McKeesport home of Johnson’s father on Sunday.
In 1990, Curry-Demus, then known as Andrea Curry, was accused of stabbing a woman in an alleged plot to steal the woman’s infant. A day after that stabbing, Curry-Demus snatched a 3-week-old baby girl from a hospital after the child’s 16-year-old mother had gone home for the night. The baby was found unharmed with Curry-Demus at her home the next day.
Curry-Demus pleaded guilty in 1991 to various charges from both incidents and got three to 10 years in prison, according to court records. She was paroled in August 1998.