Franklin County woman sentenced in throat slashing and kidnapping

Friday, September 12, 2008 | 6:57 p.m. CDT

UNION — An eastern Missouri woman was sentenced Friday to 30 years in prison for the slashing of a young mother's throat and the kidnapping of her newborn.

Shannon Torrez, 38, of Lonedell, entered an Alford plea in May to one count each of child kidnapping, armed criminal action and first-degree assault. She did not admit guilt with her plea but conceded there was enough evidence for a guilty verdict. At the sentencing hearing in Franklin County Circuit Court on Friday, she was given 30 years on each charge, with the sentences to run concurrently.

Prosecutor Robert Parks said Torrez would serve at least 25½ years in prison.

The Sept. 15, 2006, abduction of 7-day-old Abby Woods set off a frantic search that drew national attention to the rural Franklin County area about 45 miles southwest of St. Louis. The search ended happily five days later when Abby was found, unharmed.

The baby's mother, Stephenie Ochsenbine, recovered from her wounds and testified at Friday's hearing. She said she remembered being covered in blood and pleading with Torrez while her 1-year-old son, Connor, who also was covered in his mother's blood, watched the attack.

"You gave me no regard and no caring to my pleading," she said to Torrez.

Ochsenbine said she becomes panicked whenever she sees Torrez in court and when her children are out of her sight.

Psychologist Diane Sanford, testifying for the defense, said Torrez told her she had delivered a stillborn baby girl alone at her home shortly before the kidnapping. Sanford said Torrez suffered from postpartum bipolar disorder, which included mania and confused thinking.

Defense attorney Scott Rosenblum said he didn't want to make excuses for his client's actions but claimed that she clearly was not in her right mind that day.

Torrez and Ochsenbine lived just a few miles apart but didn't know each other. At her plea hearing in May, Parks said that Torrez knocked at the door, said her car broke down and asked to use the phone. Once inside, she asked to use the bathroom, then came out pointing a gun at Ochsenbine and said she was taking the baby, according to Parks.

When Ochsenbine got between Torrez and Abby, Torrez threw her down and stabbed her in the back, Parks said. She later tied Ochsenbine and Connor to a chair, Parks said. When Torrez picked up Abby, Ochsenbine begged Torrez to stop, and Torrez cut her throat, Parks said.

Ochsenbine managed to free herself, and Torrez choked Ochsenbine until she passed out, Parks said. Ochsenbine awoke to find herself and Connor tied up in the bathroom, with Abby gone.

Authorities said Torrez passed the child off as her own, until a relative discovered a birthmark on the infant that had been covered with makeup and notified police.


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