Baby's grave found at eastern Mo. home of kidnapping suspect

Saturday, September 30, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- Investigators have found a marked grave for a baby at the rural home of Shannon Torrez, the woman accused of slashing a young mother's throat and stealing her baby earlier this month.

Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Parks announced Friday that the marked grave at Torrez's home near the town of Lonedell was for a fetus that apparently died in 2000.

Parks also said a medical examination indicated Torrez was recently pregnant.

Torrez, 36, remains jailed on $1 million bond after pleading not guilty at her arraignment Sept. 21.

The new evidence found at Torrez's home deepens the mystery of an account she gave authorities after she was arrested Sept. 19.

Torrez said she gave birth to a stillborn child the previous Friday. That was the same day she is accused of entering the home of 21-year-old Stephenie Ochsenbine. Torrez allegedly attacked Ochsenbine with a knife, slicing her arm and slashing her throat before fleeing with Abby Woods, who was just one week old.

Torrez, who lived just a few miles south of Ochsenbine, allegedly passed Abby off as her own baby until her sister-in-law discovered the truth and turned her in, police said. Abby Woods was returned unharmed to her parents last week.

Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said after Torrez's arrest there were doubts she could deliver a child and overpower Ochsenbine in the same day. He said investigators wondered whether she had been pregnant at all.

Neither Toelke nor Parks were at their office Friday immediately after Toelke sent out a news release on Park's behalf about the search of Torrez's property.

Torrez's attorney, Daniel Briegel, did not answer messages left at his office Friday evening, and has an unlisted home phone number.

No other fetuses were found on Torrez's property after an extensive search that used cadaver dogs, according to the release.

St. Louis County Medical Examiner Mary Case performed tests confirming the fetus that was found died in 2000 from natural causes, Parks said.

An examination by an OBGYN revealed "indications of a recent pregnancy," Parks said. At Torrez's arraignment, Parks had argued she remains a danger to the community.

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