Colorado woman charged under new law in womb attack
BOULDER, Colo. — A woman accused of cutting a baby from a pregnant woman's womb was charged Friday with first-degree attempted murder.
Dynel Lane, 34, of Longmont, Colo., also was charged with first-degree unlawful termination of pregnancy, first-degree assault and second-degree assault. Boulder County prosecutors did not file murder charges against Lane because the coroner found no evidence that the fetus Michelle Wilkins, 26, was carrying had been alive outside her womb.
Lane's husband, who found the baby in his bathtub, said he thought he heard it gasp for breath, according to a police affidavit.
Under Colorado law, a person can face a murder charge in the death of an unborn child only if evidence shows that the fetus survived apart from its mother. The Boulder County coroner's findings are not final; final autopsy results will be released once all testing and further studies are complete.
Lane has been in Boulder County Jail since shortly after the March 18 attack on Wilkins, who was seven months pregnant with a girl that she had named Aurora. Lane is accused of luring Wilkins to her home through a Craigslist ad offering baby clothes.
Wilkins, who nearly died in the attack, was released from a hospital earlier this week.
The unlawful termination charge was filed under a new state law intended to be a compromise between opponents and supporters of abortion rights. The maximum punishment for the felony is 32 years in prison; a person convicted of homicide in Colorado could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The case has generated inflamed rhetoric, including remarks from a Republican state legislator from Colorado Springs who called the attack punishment from God for laws allowing abortion.
When Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, a former Navy chaplain who also hosts a televangelism YouTube show called Pray in Jesus Name, was confronted about his comments, he said Thursday that his charity had made a $1,000 donation to Wilkins' family.
"I have challenged all the members of the Legislature to join me in donating not $1,000, like my charity did, but just $5 to stand in solidarity," Klingenschmitt said.
Wilkins' family rejected the money in a brief note on its fund-raising website:
"Just wanted everyone to know," Mark Wilkins wrote. "Payment Refunded. A refund of $1,000 has been issued for a payment made by Gordon Klingenschmitt for Michelle Wilkins Fund (Longmont CO). The money has been removed from your account: Michelle Wilkins Trust Fund (Longmont CO)."
Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman announced Friday that legislation was being drafted to extend legal protections to unborn children.
At least dozen states do not have laws making the violent death of an unborn child a homicide, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Colorado legislators in 2013 voted down such a measure over fears it would interfere with abortion rights, and voters overwhelmingly agreed when they rejected a similar ballot measure in 2014. However, after rejecting that law in 2013, Colorado legislators did pass a measure that makes it a felony to violently cause the death of a mother's fetus, the law that Boulder County prosecutors invoked Friday.
Contributing: Brandon Rittiman, KUSA-TV, Denver; The Associated Press
Michelle Wilkins, 26, was 7 months pregnant when an attacker cut her baby from her womb.(Photo: GoFundMe)