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O.C. Woman Shot to Death One Day From Giving Birth : Crime: Fetus also dies as bullets pierce woman’s stomach and head. Homicides are first in O.C. in 1995.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 27-year-old woman and her fetus, which was scheduled to be delivered today, were shot to death early Monday, becoming the first homicides in Orange County in 1995.

The woman’s body was discovered by a man going to work about 4:45 a.m., sprawled across a sidewalk and thick lawn near the intersection of West Crescent Avenue and Ventura Street, about 50 feet from her apartment, police said.

She had been shot several times in the head and stomach with a semiautomatic handgun, said police, who withheld her name pending notification of family.

“I’ve never seen a case like this--this close to giving birth,” Anaheim Police Sgt. Steve Rodig said.

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Courts have ruled that the death of a fetus can be considered a homicide if it could have survived outside the womb, authorities said.

Police and neighbors at the apartment complex where the woman lived said the victim was going to give birth by Cesarean section today. The woman also had a 6-year-old son, who was sleeping inside the light brown, two-story apartment building at the time her body was found.

Neighbors said the woman might have had a soured relationship with a lover, but police would not comment. “We’re exploring those possibilities, but it’s premature to say the motive at this time,” Rodig said.

Shortly before sunrise, neighbors heard sounds they described as pops or snaps, and one woman said she heard an argument while another heard a thump.

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“It sounded like a piece of furniture fell over,” said Kathy Weldon, 34, who lives behind the victim’s building. But Weldon didn’t think much about the sound because nighttime noises are not unusual in the neighborhood.

“I heard a couple of shots, but it sounded like something you’d hear on New Year’s Eve,” said Richard Caples, 37, a custodian with the Garden Grove Unified School District. “I got home probably around 4 o’clock (in the morning) and drove down the street but didn’t see a thing.”

Anaheim Fire Department paramedics rushed to the location, authorities said, but the victim and her fetus were pronounced dead at the scene. Police said they have not determined the time of the killings.

Authorities believe the woman was shot outside her first-floor apartment on Crescent Avenue, and blood spots marked the trail where she somehow walked or was carried west toward Alamo Street.

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Investigators scoured the area for spent shell casings from the gun and for any other clues. A black toy truck was in the front yard; Christmas lights crisscrossed the windows of her apartment.

Four investigators with a search warrant snapped on yellow latex gloves and poked through the woman’s apartment, examining artifacts and dusting for fingerprints.

They did not say what they might have found, and coroner’s officials have not disclosed any information about the condition of the woman’s body.

“She sustained fatal wounds, as did the 9-month-old fetus,” Rodig said.

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The victim had moved into her small, wood-paneled apartment within the last few months, neighbors said. They said they believe she originally came from Jamaica.

Throughout the day, several friends of the woman dropped by the apartment but quickly left, refusing to comment.

One neighbor let out a cry, covered her face with her hands and fought back tears when she heard of the woman’s death. “I’m just sick about this,” said the 63-year-old woman, who asked to remain anonymous.

Another resident of the building shook her head and sighed after spending all morning answering questions from police. “She was a sweet gal,” the woman said.

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But few knew much about her, including her name.

“My son played with her son,” said Weldon, who has an 11-year-old boy. “But I didn’t know her, or her husband.”

A neighbor said she had seen various male and female friends visit the woman in the past. Police believe she shared her apartment only with her son, and said they were uncertain if she had a husband or boyfriend.


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