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Life Sentence in Killing of Pregnant Woman, Removing Baby With Car Key

April 29, 1988 GMT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ A woman was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for killing a pregnant woman and cutting the baby out with a car key.

Darci Pierce, 20, was found guilty but mentally ill last month of murder, kidnapping and child abuse in the slaying of Cindy Ray, 23, who was 8 1/2 months’ pregnant.

The verdict meant the jury believed Mrs. Pierce was mentally ill when she committed the crimes but did not meet the legal test for insanity.

Prosecutors contended that Mrs. Pierce was desperate for a child and told her husband, an airman at Kirtland Air Force Base, that she was pregnant and that she was going to have labor induced July 23.

She waited outside a prenatal care clinic at the base that day and abducted Mrs. Ray, the first nearly full-term pregnant woman to walk out, prosecutors said.

Mrs. Pierce drove to the mountains east of Albuquerque, where she strangled Mrs. Ray and cut the baby from her body with a key. The infant, named Amelia, survived.

Mrs. Pierce was arrested after she went to an Albuquerque hospital with a newborn girl and doctors determined she had not given birth.

Mrs. Ray’s husband, Samuel, has returned to his home state of Utah with the infant girl and her 2-year-old brother.

Following testimony of two psychiatrists Thursday, state District Judge Richard Traub ordered concurrent sentences of life in prison for murder, 18 years for kidnapping and 18 months for child abuse.

Assistant District Attorney Harry Zimmerman recommended consecutive sentences, calling the killing a ″gruesome, heinous crime that was premeditated.″

″It’s impossible to counterbalance the pain Darci Pierce placed on the Ray family,″ he said.