Slain pregnant woman's children drowned, stuffed into appliances: officials
Mon, 2006-09-25 15:03
By: JIM SUHR
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - A judge on Monday ordered a psychological examination for a woman accused of killing a pregnant acquaintance and cutting her fetus from her womb.
Tiffany Hall, 24, looked sullen as she appeared at an arraignment hearing via video conference from the St. Clair County Jail, where she is being held on a $5-million bond.
Prosecutors say she killed Jimella Tunstall, 23 - who was about seven months pregnant - and her fetus.
Associate Judge Heinz Rudolf entered not guilty pleas on Hall's behalf on charges of first-degree murder and intentional homicide of an unborn child. Each charge carries a penalty of 20 to 60 years or life in prison, prosecutors said. The murder count could be punishable by the death penalty.
According to authorities, Hall told police she also drowned Tunstall's three children - aged seven, two and one - and stuffed them into a washer and dryer at the apartment they shared with their mother. Hall has not been charged in the children's deaths.
"It's going to be some unspecified time in the future before any additional charges will be added," St. Clair County's State Attorney Robert Haida said after Hall's arraignment.
Haida declined to discuss a possible motive, saying doing so would involve airing facts of the case.
Rudolf appointed public defender Randy Kelley as Hall's lawyer and granted Kelley's requests for a psychological evaluation and that Hall be segregated from the rest of the inmates for her protection.
Preliminary autopsies on the children appeared to show they were drowned, said Ace Hart, a deputy St. Clair County coroner.
In the days after authorities say she killed Tunstall and her fetus, Hall went about everyday life, chatting with her daughter's elementary school teacher and helping her daughter with homework, Hall's mother, Beverly Cruise, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for Monday's editions.
An autopsy showed that Tunstall bled to death after sustaining an abdominal wound caused by a sharp object, believed to be scissors, Hart has said. Authorities believe her womb was cut open after she was knocked unconscious.
Authorities suspect Tunstall was slain on or about Sept. 15.
That day, Hall summoned police to a park, saying she had given birth to a stillborn child, Hart said. She was arrested after she told her boyfriend during the infant's funeral that the baby wasn't his and that she had killed the mother to get it, authorities said.
Tunstall's body was found Thursday, and authorities began a furious search for her children. Police said the children were last seen with Hall on Sept. 18.
Authorities had visited Tunstall's apartment Friday but noticed nothing amiss while looking for photographs of the children for media outlets to publicize in their search, Hart said.
While in custody, Hart says, Hall told investigators she killed the children and hid them in the washer and dryer.
The oldest, DeMond Tunstall, 7, was found in the dryer, and the younger children - Ivan Tunstall-Collins, 2, and one-year-old Jinela Tunstall - were in the washer.
Relatives say Tunstall grew up with Hall and had let the woman babysit her children. Hall has two children of her own.