A judge on Friday sentenced a Colorado woman who cut a baby from a stranger’s womb to 100 years in prison, which included several maximum penalties: such as terminating a fetus’ life as well as 1st degree murder. Judge Maria Berkenkotter said that these harsh sentences are only imposed for the most serious charges, which were justified by the brutality of the 2015 attack, which she described as “performing a cesarean with a kitchen knife.” Berkenkotter also said that the victim, Michelle Wilkins, in addition to the community of Dynel Lane, 36, showed their remorse. Lane, upon being asked to speak, uttered a barely audible “no.”
Lane also did not speak in her defense during her trial, which ended in February when jurors found her guilty of attempting to kill Wilkins after coercing her victim to her home with an ad for maternity clothes.
Jurors had heard that Lane went to great lengths to fake her own pregnancy prior to terminating Ms. Wilkins. They did not hear that in 2002, Lane’s 19-month-old son drowned in what investigators believed was an accident. Relatives who discussed the matter said that the death of Lane’s son might have pushed her to commit such gruesome acts.
Lane’s attorneys did not debate whether or not she attacked Wilkins, but they did argue that there was no evidence to corroborate the murder charges. They tried to convince the jurors to convict Lane on the charge of attempted manslaughter.
Lane was sentenced to 48 years for attempted murder and 32 years for unlawful termination of a pregnancy. The additional years were due to assault charges during the attack. She was given credit for the more than a year she has served since her arrest.
Kathryn Herold, the public defender representing Lane, told the judge Friday she would appeal and that Lane had the right not to speak. Berkenkotter recognized that it was Lane’s constitutional right. But the judge her testimony would greatly influence the trial, considering that “people are hungry to hear from you, Miss Lane. Hungry, desperate to hear you express genuine remorse from the bottom of your heart.”
Prosecutors are not entirely sure whether or not they will attempt to file murder charges for the fetus due to the fact that they don’t know if the fetus survived outside the womb. That led Colorado Republicans to introduce legislation that would have allowed a murder charge. Democrats opposed that measure, marking the third time such a proposal failed in Colorado. Over the objection of abortion-rights supporters, 38 states have made a fetus’ killing a homicide.
Wilkins focused on her unborn daughter Friday. She placed a large photograph of her dead baby, who appeared to be sleeping, on an easel next to the witness stand, then asked Berkenkotter to inflict the harshest sentence possible. Wilkins said after the sentencing that she saw the hearing as a day in court for her daughter, who she named Aurora. “Judge Berkenkotter was clearly listening to everything that we were saying,” Wilkins told reporters, adding she felt justice had been served.
In court, Wilkins had directed her words to Lane, who sat straight and expressed no emotion when hearing individuals at the stand. Lane cried later in the hearing when a letter from one of her two daughters sent her love. Lane’s mother apologized in court to Wilkins and her family, as well as her father in a letter that she read aloud.
Ridley had become increasingly suspicious when Lane lured Wilkins to her Longmont home. Wilkins testified that they talked for about an hour before Lane proceeded to visciously attack her and use two kitchen knives to cut the baby from her womb. When Ridley came home early from work that day to meet Lane for a doctor’s appointment, he said he found the fetus in a bathtub and drove the child and Lane to a hospital, where she begged staff to save her baby. Lane said nothing to Ridley about Wilkins, who was unconscious at her home. Wilkins regained consciousness and called police.