Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Shannon Beck, the Franklin County woman suspected of kidnapping newborn Abigale Lynn Woods, has been charged with four felonies in connection with the abduction. The Franklin County prosecuting attorney’s office charged Beck about 11 a.m. with first-degree assault, child kidnapping and two counts of armed criminal action. The assault and kidnapping charges are Class A felonies. Beck, 36, was charged under her maiden name, Shannon K. Torrez, and is being held on a $1 million cash-only bond. Beck’s arraignment is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Beck was arrested after her sister-in-law, Dorothy Torrez, contacted authorities. According to court documents filed today, after Torrez confronted Beck with her suspicions about the baby, Beck told Torrez she had given birth Friday at her home and that the baby had died. Beck told Torrez she found the baby she is accused of kidnapping while driving near the baby’s home. At a late afternoon news conference, authorities cast doubt on the claims about the baby and even the reported pregnancy. Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said investigators are trying to determine if Shannon Torrez had actually been pregnant and lost a full-term baby on the same day she attacked the baby's mother."There is speculation maybe she wasn't," Toelke said.

Law enforcement officers served a search warrant early Wednesday at Beck’s Franklin County home, seeking to link Beck to the attack and abduction as well as looking for anything that would corroborate her story.They haven’t found anything to back that story up and haven’t found the body of a child, authorities said at the press conference. They are seeking medical records but haven’t yet reviewed them, they said. Prosecutor Robert Parks said there could be additional charges against Beck, but authorities said they didn’t plan to charge her husband. "There isn’t anything at this point that indicates he may have known where the baby came from," Toelke said. Beck shares the home on Yellow Dog Road with her husband, Rodney H. Beck, 40. The two are newlyweds, having married July 9, according to Franklin County court records. Franklin County sheriff’s deputies took Beck into custody Tuesday evening shortly after the baby was turned over to officers and returned to her parents. As authorities continued their investigation into the case, Stephenie Ochsenbine cradled her daughter before a national television audience Wednesday morning and spoke of how she couldn’t describe her feelings on being reunited."She belongs with me," she told MSNBC. "We’re doing great now, we’re whole again and she’s very content, actually." Said the baby’s father, James Woods: "I just wanted to hug her." Ochsenbine said she had no knowledge about Beck before and no reason to suspect her of anything. "That's why this is such a shock," she said this morning on NBC's "Today" show.

On the injuries she suffered when the baby was taken from her, Ochsenbine said: "Other than superficial wounds on the outside, the inside's perfectly fine."The sheriff talked about how they naturally had to be suspicious of the parents at first, but the parents were understanding about that."Unfortunately," Toelke said, "that's something you have to consider, but it has to be done. The family cooperated with us 100 percent."Relatives fanned out Wednesday and tore down missing baby posters at service stations, on street signs and at other public places.Stephenie Ochsenbine's grandfather, James Ochsenbine, said the weekend was emotional torture for the young couple and relatives."They went through quite a lot," he said. "I couldn't really say there's a silver lining to it, except for the idea that Abby is back safe and sound and as beautiful as ever. And she's going to be safe from now on."The small rural eastern Missouri communities near where Abby was abducted celebrated her safe return. The clerks at a convenience store in St. Clair drew a cardboard sign that said "Welcome home Abby.""We were upset and now we're excited and we can't even concentrate," clerk Debbie Young said."It was a tear-jerking time for the whole town," said Regina Hampson, manager of the only gas station in town.

Our earlier story:UNION -- A small smudge of makeup turned out to be the big break in the case of abducted newborn Abigale Lynn Woods, leading to the baby's safe return Tuesday to her parents.It was just one of several unexpected twists that arrived in quick succession, ending five days of a nationwide manhunt just as authorities were beginning to fear the worst.Shannon Beck, who lives just a few miles from the victim's family, is accused of kidnapping the infant and passing the baby off as her own to her husband and friends, said Roland Corvington, special agent in charge of the FBI in St. Louis.Key to the deception was Beck's attempt to cover the baby's distinctive forehead birthmark with makeup, Corvington said.But her sister-in-law became suspicious and used a cap worn by the infant to wipe the baby's forehead. "And she observes the birthmark," Corvington said.That set into motion a series of confrontations that ended with the unhurt infant being peacefully handed over to stunned deputies along a rural road about 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to authorities.The baby's mother, Stephenie Ochsenbine, later was reunited with Abigale at a hospital in Washington, Mo.Authorities said Beck suffered a near full-term miscarriage on Friday, the same day she is accused of stabbing Ochsenbine, slashing her neck and stealing little Abigale.Beck then told her family that the baby had been born to her. A few days earlier, Beck's sister had given birth to a healthy baby, perhaps adding pressure to Beck's situation, police said. Authorities said they believe Beck acted alone.On Sunday, Beck told her sister-in-law Dorothy Torrez, that she'd given birth to a baby, police said. Torrez visited the mother and baby on Monday. She returned for a visit on Tuesday, when they drove to St. Anthony's Medical Center in south St. Louis County.Torrez noted a bit of makeup on the forehead of the baby, Corvington said. When Beck went inside the hospital alone, Torrez wiped at the baby's forehead, revealing the birthmark.Stunned, Torrez called both her husband and Beck's husband, Corvington said. On the drive home, Torrez confronted Beck and challenged her on whether she abducted the infant. Beck at first insisted that she just found the infant on the road, but then admitted to having abducted her, Corvington said.At the house, Beck's husband handed the infant to Torrez who, along with a friend, delivered the tiny baby to deputies.Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke called Torrez the hero. "She's the one who made it happen," he said.He added: "You talk about getting the lead that breaks the case - this was one."At a news conference, Corvington said the sign saying "Welcome home, Abby" in the yard at Ochsenbine's home played a role in the events that led to the kidnapping.Beck was in police custody Tuesday night. Charges were expected sometime today.FBI profilers had said the kidnapper might be a woman who either wanted to be pregnant, recently loss a pregnancy or was faking her own pregnancy. Authorities said they did not know of any relationship between the baby's family and the accused kidnapper.Just as deputies received the infant from Torrez, Toelke was meeting with Abigale's parents to deliver sobering news - that searchers had discovered the infant's clothing near the house."When you find something like that, it's not really a good sign," Toelke said.Toelke's phone rang as he sat in a basement and talked with several family members, he said. Upon hearing his chief deputy's voice, Toelke assumed the worst. But he quickly learned that police believed they had found Abigale safe and sound.Toelke confirmed she was alive and returned to tell the family. "Things went wild from there," he said. "They were obviously very excited to hear that."The baby was found to be in good health and was taken to reunite with her mother at St. John's Mercy Hospital in Washington.Torrez gave the baby to police at the intersection of Yellow Dog Road and Highway 47, about six miles south of the baby's home at Lonedell.The search for the missing newborn had intensified around her parents' house during the day Tuesday. At least four teams of search-and-rescue dogs scoured the woods surrounding the house shared by Stephenie Ochsenbine and James Woods. An FBI team, some wearing blue evidence gloves, searched the family's house. Two divers from the Missouri Water Patrol searched a manmade fishing pond.Doctor's reportDr. Peter McCarthy, an emergency room physician at St. John's Mercy Hospital, said the baby appeared to be in good health with no problems immediately evident."The baby is here, she is well, she's been reunited with her family and all are doing well," McCarthy told a crowd of reporters from local and national media outlets Tuesday evening. Police blocked entrances to the hospital to keep reporters and others out.McCarthy said Ochsenbine had just wanted to hold her child again. "It was a touching moment," he said. "She's a wonderful child."He added: "The family is elated, and they wanted to thank the community for their support and prayers."By 8:30 p.m., the family - including the mother and baby - had left the hospital.Neighbors see handoffOne Franklin County resident, Terry Lacy, said he noticed a maroon Dodge Durango parked near the intersection of Highway 47 and Yellow Dog Road, close to his home, when he arrived home from work about 5 p.m.About half an hour later, he saw four unmarked cars pull up, and then a detective's pickup. Two women and a man got out of the Durango and turned a baby over to the law enforcement officers. The child was taken away in an ambulance. "I knew it was the baby immediately," he said.Other nearby residents, Scott and Debbi Brown, were sitting down to dinner when the handoff took place near their home. Debbi Brown said she was relieved when she realized it was the missing child."It was so scary for me because I'm home all day long, and I've been freaking out about anyone coming to the door," she said. "It just makes me feel so good that the baby's alive and healthy.Two sheriff's deputies in patrol cars guarded a wood-and-metal gate to a home in the 3400 block of Yellow Dog Road late Tuesday night. They said it was where the baby had been kept and that investigators were inside. The home wasn't visible from the road in the darkness.Authorities on Monday released a sketch of the kidnapping suspect and a photograph of a scarf possibly worn by the suspect. More than 500 leads flooded in, most of them spurred by the sketch, said Corvington. The sketch showed a woman with a mustache, wavy hair and dark eyes. She was described as being around 200 pounds, and 5-foot-4 to 5-foot-8.Authorities noted on Tuesday that the baby's father had passed a lie-detector test and the mother had agreed to take one. The locations of the mother's wounds had prevented her from immediately taking a polygraph, Toelke said.

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