Days after someone killed his pregnant sister-in-law and sliced the fetus from her womb, Josue Garcia says his family remains haunted by a single question: Why would Maritza Ramirez-Cruz get into the car of a person she didn't know?
Investigators say Ramirez-Cruz was the victim of a woman who was desperate to give her boyfriend a son but was unable to conceive. Annette Morales-Rodriguez, 33, is accused of luring the young Puerto Rican mother into her car, taking her home, beating her with a baseball bat and cutting her full-term fetus from her womb. The mother and baby both died.
"If she doesn't know you she won't get in your car," Garcia told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "How did (the suspect) get her into the car? That's what we want to know."
The suspect told investigators she offered Ramirez-Cruz, 23, a ride and the younger woman accepted, the criminal complaint said.
"I don't know. She could have the baby coming out to here," Garcia said, holding his hand between his thighs, "and she wouldn't get in your car."
Morales-Rodriguez was being held on $1 million bail. The Milwaukee County public defender's office said it had received a request for an attorney for her but none had been assigned.
The victim's husband, Christian Mercado, told AP that the killer took away a good wife, a dear friend and a caring mother of three. His sister-in-law translated for Mercado, a Spanish-speaker who brought his family to Wisconsin from Arecibo, Puerto Rico in the last year or so.
"We were hoping to grow old together, raise our kids together, watch them grow up," said Mercado, 28.
"Now, the family ..." he said, pausing and looking at his feet for a few seconds before shaking his head. "I don't know what to tell you."
Funerals for Ramirez-Cruz and the baby, who would have been named Yadier Omar, are scheduled for Friday.
Police said Morales-Rodriguez told her boyfriend and friends she was pregnant. As her supposed due date approached she grew increasingly desperate, eventually plotting to find a pregnant woman and steal the fetus.
After luring Ramirez-Cruz into her car, she took the woman to her own home. There she bludgeoned the younger woman with a baseball bat before slicing into her abdomen to get the baby, the complaint said.
The victim's family members said they hadn't cried very much because there was still too much disbelief. However, Garcia said, they were up-front with the children, who range in age from 2 to 10.
"We told them the truth: that somebody did something bad to mommy, that she's not coming back, that she's with God," he said. "We said she could see you and one day you can see her. (A 10-year-old daughter) said, `OK, I know mommy's watching me.' She didn't cry. She said, `I'll see mommy again.'"
Associated Press news researcher Judy Ausuebel in New York contributed to this report.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org