Ever heard of Caesarean kidnapping, or maybe fetal theft? That’s where someone cuts the baby out of a woman without her permission and kidnaps the baby. It’s almost always fatal to the woman. It’s so rare, and so gruesome, that it always makes big news when it happens. So it’s easy to look up on the Internet and draw conclusions.
You might shrug and think it’s something crazed infertile women just do, but it almost never happens outside America, and it never happened before 1987. Now it happens here about once a year — three times in 2009 alone. Why?
USA Today postulated in 2005 that it might be because it’s gotten harder to kidnap newborns from hospitals. But why only in America? Why never even once in, say, Europe, or Canada, or Mexico, or in England, where they certainly seem to find the crime worth coverage. And why almost always by lower-class women?
You may be thinking: Tone has gone paranoid because she’s pregnant. Who else would bother looking up every instance of something like this and tallying the results? Possibly true, but fortunately I’ve got little to fear because even though I’m American the victims are rarely pregnant women like me: Married, 30-something, and middle-class. What’s weirder is that the perps are never women like me.
Because if someone were to do a TV show featuring a Caesarean kidnapping, you know the kidnapper would be a middle-aged infertile woman who’d been struggling for years with fertility treatments or trying to adopt. And she’d be educated with money, because no one wants to watch a show about ignorant poor people. And everyone likes to think of the psycho infertile being middle-aged career women. But no one like that has ever done this, not once.
The typical fetus-snatcher is: An unmarried American woman, either white or black, under 40. She often already has children. She is unemployed and poor. She would probably need welfare to care for the baby. She has been telling her family and friends, and possibly a boyfriend, that she’s pregnant when she’s not. No evidence that a single one of them ever tried fertility treatments or adoption.
Apparently, those are the women who want babies so badly they’ll murder to get one. And for some reason, no one ever tried it before 1987, even though Caesarean sections were well-known procedures for decades before.
In 10 of the American cases the perp or perps were white, in 6 they were black. That seems like a disproportionate amount of black women. In one case it was an Asian woman and in another, it was two Hispanic women (they used a doctor and the victim survived). The perps are always women (unless it’s a woman with an accomplice), almost always act alone, and almost always go after a victim of the same race.
It’s not as if success is encouraging copycatting. No one ever gets away with this. Yet American women keep trying it. The woman shows up somewhere with the baby, claims it’s hers, people get suspicious. She gets caught and the body of the other woman is found.
I found 18 instances of it in America, counting unsuccessful attempts. There was also one in South Africa in 2000, one in Colombia in 2004, and one in Hong Kong in 2009. In all of the foreign instances the mother survived, in the U.S. the mother only lived through 5 of the 18 instances. It’s a rare crime, but any violent crime by a woman is rare, especially murder of a stranger.
The first instance ever recorded was in 1987 by a 19-year-old New Mexico woman (yes, 19), Darci Pierce, to 23-year-old Cindy Ray. Pierce had gotten her boyfriend to marry her by claiming she was pregnant. She had tricked her whole family by padding her clothes. She must have never undressed in front of her husband, and he must never have never asked to go to a doctor’s appointment with her. She had to come up with a baby fast because it was time to deliver.
She kidnapped the pregant woman outside a clinic, strangled her with a cord, and cut the baby out with car keys.
There are too many to list them all, but here’s the roster from 2009: Korena Roberts, 27, of Oregon, who already had two kids but not by her current boyfriend; Julie Corey of Massachussetts, 35, who faked a pregnancy to her 27-year-old boyfriend; and Veronica Deramous, 40, of Maryland, who had a 17-year-old son. And here are some general links: A summary from a true crime TV show, an incomplete table someone compiled in about 2005, a Wikipedia article with an incomplete list of cases but lots of links to research articles.
Many people offer psychological explanations: The women are possibly narcissists, possibly delusional, who have a fantasy regarding a perfect childbirth and motherhood. Sometimes they believe a baby will cement a relationship with a man. No one discusses why poor white and black American women would be so particularly prone to these problems, or especially willing to kill to resolve them.
I do think there is something different about the way poor, uneducated women view motherhood. I think they feel more of a sense of entitlement to it, despite their circumstances, and feel more of a sense of accomplishment simply for having birthed a child. I could see this leading to a willingness to go to extreme, criminal measures to get a baby. But I can’t think of a reason it would be different in America than in any other first-world country with a generous social-welfare system. Is there some way our society rewards or validates poor, unmarried mothers more than England or Canada does? Or are we just crazier and more violent than anywhere else?