- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

UNION, Mo. (AP) — The woman who authorities say slashed the throat of a young mother and then stole her baby was charged yesterday with kidnapping and assault and ordered held on $1 million bail.

Franklin County prosecutor Robert E. Parks filed charges against Shannon Torrez, 36, of Lonedell, Mo., who is also known as Shannon Beck. A court filing said she learned about the week-old baby through a “welcome home” yard sign.

Earlier yesterday, Stephenie Ochsenbine cradled her newborn daughter and told a national TV audience that she couldn’t describe the feeling.

“The last several days have been draining, just exhausting. But I can handle anything now,” the 21-year-old woman said on NBC’s “Today” show, her neck bandaged after her throat was slashed during Friday’s abduction.

Asked what it was like to have her baby, Abby, back in her arms, she replied: “It’s indescribable.”

“She belongs with me,” Miss Ochsenbine told MSNBC. “We’re doing great now, we’re whole again, and she’s very content, actually.”

Said Abby’s father, James Woods: “I just wanted to hug her.”

The suspect was arrested Tuesday after her sister-in-law, Dorothy Torrez, contacted authorities. Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said Shannon Torrez recently had miscarried a full-term baby.

“She’s the hero,” Mr. Toelke said of Dorothy Torrez. “She’s the one that made it happen.”

Dorothy Torrez became suspicious when she noticed makeup on the forehead of the baby her sister-in-law was claiming to have delivered a few days earlier.

Authorities said she rubbed off the makeup and found a strawberry-red birthmark that matched the description provided by investigators who had been searching for the baby.

She contacted police, and hours later, a healthy 11-day-old Abigale Lynn Woods was reunited with her parents. Shannon Torrez was taken into custody.

In a probable-cause statement, authorities said Shannon Torrez told her sister-in-law that she learned of the baby while driving past the family’s home and seeing a “Welcome Home Abby” sign in the yard.

Miss Ochsenbine told police Friday that a woman entered her rural home, attacked her with a knife and stole the baby, who was a week old at the time. Miss Ochsenbine’s 1-year-old son, Connor, also was in the house but was not harmed.

Shannon Torrez lives just a few miles from Miss Ochsenbine’s home near Lonedell, FBI Special Agent Roland Corvington said.

The suspect told her sister-in-law on Sunday that she had given birth, the FBI agent said. Visiting Shannon Torrez the next day, Dorothy Torrez persuaded her sister-in-law to take the baby to see a doctor, and on Tuesday, the two women went to St. Louis for that doctor’s visit.

That’s when she discovered the birthmark and confronted her sister-in-law, who gave her the baby. Abby was handed over to authorities about 5 p.m.

Health care officials said it appears Abby had been well cared for.

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