Marcel La Cruz, the woman who grabbed a newborn baby from a 13-year-old mother nearly a year ago, was sentenced to one year imprisonment in the High Court yesterday for the kidnapping.
Justice Winston Patterson who passed judgment also ordered that the accused subject herself to counselling. The teary-eyed woman gave an immediate commitment from the dock to comply with the order.
At an emotional sentencing yesterday, the court heard that La Cruz, a mother of two young children, badly wanted to mother a child with her current husband but struggled with this. The woman then pretended that she was pregnant after enduring innumerable taunts by neighbours for the past six years.
The probation report read in court revealed that La Cruz kept doctor appointments among other things for nine months in an apparent attempt to deceive neighbours into believing she was carrying a child. Then one day she turned up with a newborn baby which turned out to be stolen.
Facts of the case presented by state counsel, Melissa Yearwood-Stewart pointed out that La Cruz had befriended 13-year-old Shevonne Greene and pretended that she was working for an organization that could assist Greene and her baby. She later snatched the baby and ran away with the child.
Greene, who was 13 years at the time of the abduction, reportedly met La Cruz at the Georgetown Public Hospital. La Cruz led her to believe that she could help her get assistance. On the day the child was snatched, La Cruz gave Greene some money to purchase clothes for the child and used the opportunity when the mother left to flee with the baby.
The child was later found at La Cruz’s East Bank Demerara home. La Cruz was taken into custody and subsequently charged with child stealing. At the conclusion of the preliminary inquiry earlier this year, the magistrate found that there was sufficient evidence for a High Court trial.
In her explanation to the police, La Cruz said that she had no reason for abducting the baby and maintained this when questioned for the probation report. But according to the probation officer, the need to have a baby with her current husband seemed to be the reason behind the kidnapping.
La Cruz, age 24 yrs, was indicted on the kidnapping charge for abducting Greene’s baby on December 28, 2006. Her trial commenced but a voir dire [trial within a trial] was later conducted to determine the admissibility of a caution statement she gave police. When the state was favoured with an admission of the statement into evidence, La Cruz changed her plea to guilty.
Her defence counsel, Ronald Burch-Smith made a stirring plea of mitigation yesterday and referred to what she did as “an unspeakable wrong to Greene and her baby”. He pleaded with the court to have mercy on La Cruz.
Justice Patterson told La Cruz that after looking at the probation report it was still fair to ask why she committed such an act though he pointed out that some aspects of the report warrant concern.
He told the accused that he was in sympathy with her but at the same time could not ignore her actions. However he considered that she had appeared remorseful, that she had no prior conviction and that she had changed her plea during the trial.