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Published: Friday, 9/22/2006

Pregnant mother slain, fetus taken; 3 other kids missing


EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. The body of a woman who apparently had a fetus cut from her womb was found in a vacant lot, and police said today they were searching for her three young children.

The children were last seen with a 26-year-old woman who was taken into police custody late Thursday. State police described her only as a person of interest.

She had buried a baby yesterday that she said had been stillborn, East St. Louis Police Chief James Mister told the Belleville News-Democrat. An autopsy will be performed on the baby today to determine whether it was removed from the dead woman s womb, Mister said.

Her boyfriend told officials that she had confessed to him during the funeral that the baby wasn t his and that she d killed a woman and taken her baby, Mister said.

Police found the body in the lot soon afterward. The victim s name was not immediately released. The Associated Press is not naming the 26-year-old woman because she has not been charged with any crime. Police said they captured her at a home late Thursday but would not say if she had been arrested.

Authorities also declined to say Friday whether there was any connection between the two women. The boyfriend, who also was not identified by name, is a sailor home on leave, according to the News-Democrat.

Police searched for the children at a park in East St. Louis today, moving along a lake shoreline in a boat with a search dog aboard. The children were identified as Demond Tunstall, 7, Ivan Tunstall, 3, and Jinella Tunstall, 2.

St. Clair County State s Attorney s Robert Haida called it a very tragic case but said authorities weren t rushing to judgment.

We are taking our time and waiting on reports from investigators, he said.

The East St. Louis case is the area s second recent case involving babies.

A 36-year-old woman from Lonedell is accused of slashing a young mother s throat and kidnapping her baby on Sept. 15. The baby was found in good condition four days later.

Another woman is to stand trial next April in the abduction of an unborn girl taken from the womb of Bobbie Jo Stinnett in December 2004 in Skidmore, Mo. The baby survived.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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