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Mo. woman pleads in stolen baby attack

/ Source: The Associated Press

A woman accused of slashing a young mother's throat, kidnapping her newborn and passing off the child as her own for five days reached a plea deal Friday. She will be sentenced in the summer.

Shannon Torrez, 38, of Lonedell, Mo., entered an Alford plea to one count each of child kidnapping, armed criminal action and first-degree assault. An Alford plea means she does not admit guilt, but concedes there is sufficient evidence for a guilty verdict.

Abby Woods was kidnapped Sept. 15, 2006. Authorities said the week-old-baby's mother, Stephenie Ochsenbine, then 21, allowed Torrez into the family home, where Abby lived with her mother, her father, James Woods, and her brother, Connor.

The two women lived just a few miles apart in the rural area about 45 miles southwest of St. Louis, but did not know each other.

Once inside the house, Torrez held Stephenie Ochsenbine at gunpoint, slashed her throat and left with the baby; Ochsenbine survived, authorities said.

Prosecutor Robert Parks said Torrez will likely be sentenced in July or August. Prosecutors are seeking a 30-year sentence.

Defense attorney Scott Rosenblum said Torrez's mental state will be the focus of testimony at the sentencing hearing. He declined to elaborate but said Torrez had delivered a stillborn baby just before the kidnapping.

"This has never been about condoning Shannon's behavior, excusing it," he said. "This is about explaining it."

Parks said prosecutors agreed to the plea in part to spare the family from reliving the crime.

"Stephenie was ready to go through a trial, but she really didn't want to go through the whole thing again," Parks said.

Ochsenbine sat in the front row of the courtroom and showed little emotion. Woods kept his arm around her throughout the hearing, and the family declined comment after the hearing.

Parks described Abby "as a typical 2-year-old and doing really well."