ATHENS, Ala. (AP) _ A couple used a ″Beautiful Baby Contest″ in a 1980 scheme in which at least two new mothers were killed and their babies abducted for sale, according to authorities still piecing the cases together.
Harold Schut and Jackie Sue Schut of Washington state, awaiting trial on murder charges in a baby abduction and slaying in this Alabama City, may have been involved in six similar cases, according to a Texas investigator.
Schut is under a capital murder indictment in the killing of Geneva Clemons, 27, and the abuduction of her infant son in Athens on Jan. 21, 1980. Last week Schut was indicted in Houston on a kidnapping charge in an infant abduction and the killing of the baby’s mother, Cheryl Ann Jones, 20, on March 8, 1980.
Mrs. Schut, 34, is to stand trial May 4 on a murder charge in the slaying of Mrs. Clemons, who was shot after Schut allegedly approached her about taking pictures of her 15-day-old baby for a magazine. The baby, James Clemons, now 7 years old, was found abandoned on a rural road in freezing temperatures several hours after the slaying.
Chuck Rosenthal, an assistant district attorney handling the case in Houston, told the Athens News Courier in a story published Tuesday that the Schuts may have been involved in at least six other cases.
He said evidence indicated they used variations of the baby contest scam, gaining the trust of parents by posing as baby magazine photograhers.
″I personally believe very strongly there are other instances of similar acts,″ he said.
He declined to elaborate.
Rosenthal said he will seek a capital murder indictment against Mrs. Schut in the death of Ms. Jones. He said Mrs. Schut’s husband was not indicted on a murder charge in the Texas case because Schut is not believed to be the person who caused the death.
The prosecutor said it was initially thought that Ms. Jones slit her wrists and took an overdose of barbiturates. But he said evidence now indicates she was slowly drugged and finally killed with a lethal overdose in a fashionable Houston motel.
He said she was first approached at a Navy post in the Algiers section of New Orleans by a woman believed to be Mrs. Schut. The woman contended she worked for a baby magazine and asked permission to photograph Ms. Jones’ 2- month-old daughter for entry in a contest.
Later Ms. Jones was told her child lost the contest but won a ″free shopping spree″ in Houston. It was then Ms. Jones left with the Schuts, according to the prosecutor.
Rosenthal said it was later learned Ms. Jones’ infant had been sold to a woman for $2,000 but was returned after the woman apparently had second thoughts.
Schut was brought to Athens on the murder charge after being arrested in Reno, Nev., on charges of molesting a young girl in 1985. Mrs. Schut fought extradition from Washington state, where she was serving a sentence for child abuse. She was brought to Alabama only after the Limestone County district attorney agreed to reduce the capital murder charge to a charge that would not carry a possible death penalty.