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Teens charged with kidnapping pregnant woman, planning to cut baby from womb

Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | 1:55 p.m. CDT; updated 11:48 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

KANSAS CITY - Two teenagers were charged Tuesday with kidnapping and assault after they allegedly kidnapped a pregnant woman and held her in a motel room until one of the suspects left the room and alerted police.

Blue Springs police said officers charged the hotel room where the pregnant woman was being held Monday night, freeing the woman, Amanda Howard, 18, of Clinton, who is due to deliver next week.

Lauren M. Gash, 19, of Odessa, and Alisa D. Betts, 17, of Atchison, Kan., were arraigned on felony kidnapping charges Tuesday. Gash, 19, also faced one count of assault.

Court documents showed police believe the suspects lured Howard into a car Monday, sprayed her with Mace and bound her with tape. Gash and Betts then allegedly drove the victim to the motel in the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs.

Betts apparently "started to get cold feet and exited the room and called police," said Detective Troy Pharr of the Blue Springs Police Department. When police arrived, they found Howard and Gash.

The complaint issued by the Jackson County prosecutor's office accused Betts and Gash of kidnapping Howard in order to kidnap her baby boy. It also accused Gash of sitting on Howard's stomach and twisting her neck back and forth, "a substantial step toward" trying to "kill or cause serious physical injury" to Howard.

Pharr said the three women met on MySpace.com, a popular social networking Web site, and that Gash had been telling family members that she was pregnant and that she had recently delivered the baby by C-section at an Independence hospital.

One of the suspects also told police that two men had asked them to kidnap the victim and tie her up. The men then purportedly planned to cut the unborn baby from the womb and leave the mother to die.

Police said no other arrests were immediately made.

Bond was set at $500,000 for Betts and $750,000 for Gash, who were being held in the Jackson County jail. Attempts to reach Gash and Betts at the jail were not successful Tuesday evening because the women were still in transit, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

The region has had two other cases of assaults on pregnant women. Lisa Montgomery, 39, of Melvern, Kan., has been charged in the 2004 death of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, who was killed in her northwest Missouri home when she was eight months pregnant. Montgomery is accused of strangling Stinnett and cutting the baby girl from her womb. The baby survived.

Montgomery's trial has been scheduled for Oct. 1. She has pleaded not guilty, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

In Belleville, Ill., Tiffany Hall, 24, is accused of killing 23-year-old Jimella Tunstall, her 7-month-old fetus and her three young children in September. Hall also has pleaded not guilty and faces the death penalty.


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