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Stolen baby is found alive

Woman arrested in grisly case

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By John R. Ellement and Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / July 30, 2009

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WORCESTER - The baby who had been ripped from her slain mother’s womb was found alive and well in New Hampshire last night, and a woman was arrested in the grisly killing and kidnapping.

Julie A. Corey, an acquaintance of 23-year-old homicide victim Darlene Haynes, was arrested after she was questioned late last night by authorities in Plymouth, N.H., police said. The baby girl was brought to a New Hampshire hospital, where she remained under evaluation.

“We got the baby, and the baby appears to be in good health,’’ Worcester Police Sergeant Kerry F. Hazelhurst said.

Corey, 35, from Worcester, was charged with being a fugitive from authorities with probable cause that she had kidnapped Haynes’s baby. She was not charged in the homicide, but the investigation is continuing, Hazelhurst said. He said a male acquaintance was with Corey when she was taken into custody, but he has not been charged in the case.

The arrest was a quick turnaround for investigators who were initially baffled by the gruesome killing and abduction, and who had learned only Tuesday night - a day after the body was found - that the baby had been cut from Haynes’s womb when she was killed.

Corey’s actions after the slaying seemed to put police on her trail. She told friends in recent days that she had delivered a baby some time Thursday night into Friday morning at a Massachusetts hospital, which she did not identify. The claim piqued the suspicions of friends, who did not know she was pregnant. Those friends alerted Worcester detectives after the Haynes slaying became public.

Detectives tracked Corey to a shelter in Plymouth, where she had apparently gone to relocate. She and a male friend were brought to a New Hampshire State Police facility, where they were questioned, and Corey was charged.

Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme said in a statement last night that, “The entire Worcester community should be extremely grateful for the tireless effort exerted by the men and women of the detective division in working around the clock to investigate this case.

“Their collective efforts in developing information resulted in the swift location of the missing infant and the obtaining of critical medical attention.’’

Haynes, a mother of three, was found dead in the bedroom closet of her Southgate Street apartment Monday afternoon, wrapped tightly in a comforter and so mangled and decomposed that authorities could not immediately tell her gender.

On Tuesday night, a medical examiner determined that she had been eight months’ pregnant and that the baby she had been carrying was taken. Authorities had removed Haynes’s body from her home still wrapped inside the bedding, to preserve evidence, and her wounds were not viewed until she was brought to the medical examiner’s office. She had blunt force trauma to the head, sources said, but the autopsy results are still pending.

Worcester law enforcement officials, speaking anonymously yesterday because they were not authorized to comment on the case, said that from the onset of the investigation, detectives were looking at a planned abduction.

The case is a gruesome reminder of other similar killings, including that of an Oregon woman in June whose fetus allegedly was removed by a 27-year-old woman she had met while searching for baby clothes.

Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. released a statement saying: “This case deals with some of the most trying circumstances that any detective will face. The facts are just horrific.’’

Police say Haynes was last seen a week ago, after taking her 18-month-old daughter, Christina, to visit the child’s father, Roberto C. Rodriguez of Worcester. Rodriguez and Haynes had a tenuous relationship, and he had recently been charged with aggravated assault and battery, when she was seven months’ pregnant.

She had an active restraining order against him, and in a separate case he was convicted in 2008 of domestic assault and battery. He is expected to be in Worcester District Court today to answer to charges that he violated probation in that case by not attending a program for batterers.

Rodriguez told reporters yesterday that he had nothing to do with the death and urged the killer to come forth.

On Sunday, police responded to the home after a neighbor called about Haynes’s cat, which had come to her door looking for food. The neighbor thought Haynes had moved away.

An officer looked through Haynes’s window and noticed a stench coming from the apartment, but he attributed the odor to trash and animals left inside (Haynes’s cat and a pet Chihuahua), said Hazelhurst.

By Monday, the odor had intensified. Haynes’s landlord entered the apartment and found the body.

Yesterday a portrait emerged of Haynes as a troubled young woman who had started to mix with a shady crowd. According to an uncle, Karl Whitney of Palmer, she was “neurologically impaired’’ and acted much younger than her years. She had attended special education programs in the Worcester schools, said Whitney, who served as a family spokesman.

“Sometimes, unfortunately, Darlene would not make decisions correctly,’’ he said. “We’re just trying to comprehend what happened. I don’t understand how someone could do this.’’

Estranged from her mother, Haynes was raised by her maternal grandmother, who has legal custody of two of her daughters, who are 5 and 3 years old. Allison Goodwin, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Families, said yesterday that her office has taken custody of the 18-month-old.

Haynes had recently struggled to pay her bills and was facing eviction. “She had nowhere to go,’’ her neighbor said, calling her depressed and lonely.

But she seemed to embrace having another child, confiding in her grandmother she had already picked out a name for her fourth daughter - Shelby Marie.

Globe researcher Marleen A. Lee contributed to this report.