- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 24, 2006

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — A woman accused of killing a pregnant woman and her unborn child told police that she drowned the woman’s three young children and stuffed them into a washer and dryer at their apartment, an official said yesterday.

Preliminary autopsies on the dead children appear to show they were drowned, said Ace Hart, a deputy St. Clair County coroner.

As of yesterday, Tiffany Hall, 24, had not been charged in the children’s deaths, but prosecutors on Saturday accused Miss Hall of killing their mother, Jimella Tunstall, 23, and her unborn child. The unborn child had been cut from her womb, authorities said.

According to yesterday’s autopsies, there were no signs of physical abuse or trauma on the children — ages 7, 2, and 1— and toxicology tests were pending “to see if they were poisoned or possibly drugged,” Deputy Hart said.

Authorities suspect Miss Tunstall was slain on or about Sept. 15.

That day, Miss Hall summoned police to a park, saying she had given birth to a stillborn child, Deputy Hart said. She was arrested after she told her boyfriend during the baby’s funeral that the baby wasn’t his and that she had killed the mother to get it, authorities said.

Miss Tunstall’s body was found Thursday, and authorities began a furious search for her children. Police said the children were last seen with the Miss Hall last Monday.

Authorities had visited Miss Tunstall’s apartment Friday but noticed nothing amiss while looking for photographs of the children for media outlets to publicize in their search, Deputy Hart said.

Miss Hall told police where the bodies were and told police she drowned them, Deputy Hart said.

He said he understood why investigators may have overlooked the children during their previous trip to the apartment. “Who would be looking in the washer and dryer?”

By Saturday night, Deputy Hart said, “You could find them by the smell.”

The oldest, 7-year-old DeMond Tunstall, was found in the dryer and the younger two children — 2-year-old Ivan Tunstall-Collins and 1-year-old Jinela Tunstall — in the washer. Two of the children were found nude, the third wearing only underpants, Deputy Hart said.

Miss Hall remained jailed yesterday on $5 million bail, charged with first-degree murder in Miss Tunstall’s death and with intentional homicide of an unborn child.

An autopsy showed that Jimella Tunstall bled to death after suffering an abdominal wound caused by a sharp object, thought to be scissors, Deputy Hart has said. Authorities think her womb was cut open after she was knocked unconscious.

Relatives say Miss Tunstall grew up with Miss Hall and had let her baby-sit her children. Miss Hall has two children of her own. Illinois State Police Capt. Craig Koehler said they are “safe and sound.”

Miss Hall likely will be arraigned today, prosecutors said. The murder count could be punishable by the death penalty.

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