A judge on Friday sentenced a Colorado woman to 100 years in prison for cutting a nearly 8-month-old fetus from a stranger’s womb. A jury convicted Dynel Lane, 36, in February of attempting to kill Michelle Wilkins in 2015. Lane also was convicted of assault and unlawful termination of a pregnancy after luring Wilkins with an ad for maternity clothes.
Prosecutors said they were unable to charge Lane with murdering the unborn girl because a coroner found no evidence that the fetus lived outside the womb. That led Colorado Republicans to introduce legislation that would have allowed a murder charge. Democrats rejected the measure, the third time such a proposal failed in Colorado. Over the objection of abortion-rights supporters, 38 states have made a fetus’s killing a homicide.
Judge Maria Berkenkotter said the harshest sentences for the most serious charges were justified by the brutality of the 2015 attack, which she described as performing a cesarean with a kitchen knife. Berkenkotter also said the victim,
Michelle Wilkins, as well as her family and the community needed Dynel Lane, 36, to express remorse. Lane murmured a “no” when the judge asked if she wanted to speak. Lane also did not speak in her defense during her trial, which ended in February when jurors found her guilty of attempting to kill Wilkins after luring her victim to her home with an ad for maternity clothes.
Lane’s attorneys did not dispute that she attacked Wilkins, but they argued there was no evidence it was a calculated murder attempt. They urged jurors to convict Lane of the lesser charge of attempted manslaughter.
“I chose to use my time to address you directly, Dynel,” said Wilkins at the sentencing. “Because up to this very moment you refused to acknowledge us, the victims of your violent actions. I am a compassionate person, this is the foundation of the beliefs from which all others grow. It is clear that you need healing and my sincere belief that you get it,” she said, according to CBS Denver. Wilkins made her statements at the front of the court while a large picture of her daughter, Aurora, graced the courtroom beside her, according to CBS Denver. Aurora did not survive the attack.
Jurors had heard that Lane went to elaborate lengths to feign her own pregnancy before attacking Wilkins. They did not hear that in 2002.
Relatives who spoke on Lane’s behalf before the sentencing Friday said her remorse over losing her son may have led her to take an action they could not understand or explain. She had posted online photos of herself with a distended belly and sent the man she said was the father of her child ultrasound images downloaded from the Internet.
David Ridley, who lived with Lane and her two daughters, testified at trial that Lane claimed for more than a year that she was expecting a boy, whom they planned to name James. Friends even threw a baby shower.
Ridley had grown suspicious by the time Lane lured Wilkins to her Longmont home. Wilkins testified that they chatted for about an hour before Lane hit, pushed and tried to choke her, then used two kitchen knives to cut the baby from her womb.
When Ridley came home early from work that day to meet Lane for a doctor’s appointment, he said he found the fetus in a bathtub and drove the child and Lane to a hospital, where she begged staff to save her baby.
Lane said nothing to Ridley about Wilkins, who was unconscious at her home. Wilkins regained consciousness and called police.
In 2002, Lane’s 19-month-old son drowned in what investigators ruled was an accident.