An infant born prematurely in a violent attack on his mother 10 months ago is learning to walk, beginning to talk and bears a bittersweet resemblance to the slain woman.
Friday was a sad but important date for the boy's family: His mother's killer pleaded guilty but mentally ill to cutting him from the womb and leaving the woman dead beside a rural road. Prosecutors say 21-year-old Jamie Stice was shocked with a stun gun before having her wrists and throat cut last April. Kathy Coy of Morgantown faces life in prison without parole at her sentencing March 1.
Before Friday's hearing, the boy's grandmother proudly showed off a photo of her chubby, smiling grandson atop his father's shoulders. Isaiah Allen Stice Reynolds lives with his father and is said to be thriving despite being born about five weeks early.
His grandmother, Jeannie Stice, said that Isaiah visits them every other weekend. He's crawling, trying to walk, and says "mama" and "dada."
"He looks a whole lot like Jamie when she was a baby," Stice said.
Jamie Stice's 29-year-old brother Eric marvels at how his nephew has overcome his violent entry into the world.
"He's a miracle," he said after the hearing. "He's never had a doctor visit where he weighed in too light."
Family members sing the same songs his mother sang him while he was in the womb. At home, Jeannie Stice memorializes her daughter with a wall of photos that recount happy times. There are photos of her pregnant daughter and ultrasound pictures of Isaiah.
Jeannie and Eric Stice were among 35 relatives and friends of Jamie Stice who came to Warren County Circuit Court to witness Coy's plea. They wore pink ribbons.
"There's no justice that can be served," Eric Stice said afterward, calling his sister's killer a monster. "The worst possible thing that they could do to her would not suffice the actions she committed. She took a beautiful, innocent young lady from a world of people who loved her, including an infant son."
Coy, who had shown little emotion in previous hearings, cried and shook her head Friday as a prosecutor read the evidence against her. Her slight, high-pitched voice shook with emotion as she entered her plea to murder, capital kidnapping and kidnapping. She wore an orange jail jumpsuit and leg irons.
"The brutality of it is like nothing any of us have ever seen," Warren County Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Cohron said afterward.
Cohron said he would have sought the death penalty if Coy had been convicted at trial.
Police had said Coy and Stice were Facebook friends. Stice's mutilated body was found off a dirt road in southern Kentucky on April 14, a day after she had been seen leaving her home with Coy. Police arrested Coy at a local hospital after she arrived with the infant but showed no signs of having given birth.
Psychologist Eric Drogin testified briefly before the plea was entered. Drogin said he met with the 34-year-old Coy as recently as this week and that she suffers from a mental illness.
During a hearing in April, Kentucky State Police detective Chad Winn testified that Coy had lured Stice out of her home by telling her they were going shopping for baby supplies.
After killing Stice and stealing the baby boy, Coy drove to the home of a friend and said she had given birth to the baby, Winn said. The friend told troopers that Coy was in a car, wearing no pants and sitting on the placenta while holding the baby, who had grass on him.
The friend called for an ambulance after helping to clean the baby and taking a picture of the newborn. At the hospital on April 13, Coy brought in a uterus, ovaries and placenta with umbilical cord still attached, along with the baby, Winn said.
Coy initially insisted she gave birth to the boy, then told police she bought the baby for $550, Winn said.
Police searched Coy's home and computer, finding links to two pregnant women on her Facebook page. Investigators found one of the women unharmed, but couldn't find Stice. Police would later find a stun gun and two knives believed to be used in the attack.
"I then asked Ms. Coy if that baby was Jamie Stice's," Winn testified. "She answered `I don't know.' I was alarmed by this."
Coy eventually led detectives to a wooded area off a dirt road, where Stice's remains were located.
Winn told reporters Friday that Coy had faked pregnancies and was obsessed with the thought of having a baby.
Coy has two children of her own but they didn't live with her, Winn said.
"The miracle in the whole thing is that the baby made it," Winn said of Jamie Stice's baby.
Stice's brother, Eric, said his nephew will grow up knowing about his mother and her hopes for him. She wrote letters to her son during her pregnancy that he'll be given. Relatives visit her grave regularly, sometimes taking Isaiah along.
"I'd say it will probably be a tradition to fill him in how much his mom loved him and how much she wanted to be there," he said.
Associated Press writer Brett Barrouquere contributed to this story from Louisville, Ky.