Malicious Women Kills another Mother to Steal Her Child

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-09-23-illinois-kids_x.htm?csp=24

 

3 kids found dead in fetus theft case

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) Authorities on Sunday were trying to pinpoint the cause of death for three children an investigator says were found decomposing inside the washer and dryer of their apartment, hours after a woman was accused of killing their pregnant mother and her fetus.

Saturday night's discovery inside apartment 28J at the John DeShields public housing complex came two days after the mother of the children ages 7, 2 and 1 was found in a weedy lot, her abdomen torn open and the fetus missing.

Investigators carried out a furious two-day search, including scouring an 1,100-acre state park, for the children they said were last seen Monday with 24-year-old Tiffany Hall, a family friend prosecutors charged Saturday afternoon with killing Jimella Tunstall and her fetus.

Hours later, Hall pointed authorities to Tunstall's apartment that investigators had briefly visited earlier in search of photographs of the children for media outlets to publicize as the search pressed on, said Ace Hart, a deputy St. Clair County coroner.

Hall "fessed up where the kids were. She didn't say she killed them," Hart said Sunday, saying 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?"

But by Saturday night, Hart said, "you could find them by the smell."

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

Hall remained jailed Sunday in nearby Belleville on $5 million bond, charged with first-degree murder in Tunstall's death and with intentional homicide of an unborn child.

Autopsies on the children were scheduled for Sunday, Hart said.

Illinois State Police Capt. Craig Koehler declined to say late Saturday whether Hall was suspected in the children's deaths. The cause of their deaths had not been determined, he said.

"Any time you have three deceased children, it's a very emotional time," Koehler said, fighting back tears. "All these investigators have worked tirelessly with one outcome in mind to find these children alive."

An autopsy showed that Jimella Tunstall, 23, whose body was found Thursday, bled to death after sustaining an abdominal wound caused by a sharp object, believed to be scissors, Hart has said.

Authorities believe her womb was cut open after she was knocked unconscious.

Relatives say Tunstall grew up with Hall and had let her baby-sit her children.

Officials suspect Tunstall, who was seven months pregnant, was slain on or about Sept. 15, said Robert Haida, St. Clair County's prosecutor. The same day, Hall summoned police to a park, saying she had given birth to a stillborn child, Hart said.

Hall and the baby were taken to a hospital, where she would not let doctors examine her and offered conflicting reasons for why she went into labor, alternately saying she had consensual sex and was raped, Hart said. The dead baby showed no signs of trauma, and an autopsy the next day failed to pinpoint a cause of death, Hart said.

Authorities say Hall acknowledged to her boyfriend during the baby's funeral Thursday that the child wasn't his, and that she had killed the mother to get it. The boyfriend, reportedly a sailor home on leave, told police, who arrested his girlfriend hours later, investigators said.

Hall has two children of her own. Koehler said they are "safe and sound."

Hall likely will be arraigned Monday on the two charges, each carrying a 20 to 60 years or life in prison, Haida said. The murder count could be punishable by the death penalty.

DNA tests should determine definitively whether the baby was the one Tunstall was carrying, Hart said.


By JIM SUHR, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 3 minutes ago
 

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. - A woman accused of killing a pregnant woman and her fetus told police she drowned the woman's three young children and stuffed them into a washer and dryer at their apartment, an official said Sunday.

Preliminary autopsies on the dead children Sunday appear to show they were drowned, Ace Hart, a deputy St. Clair County coroner, told The Associated Press.

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

According to Sunday'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," Hart said.

"They were not drowned there in the wash machine," Hart stressed.

On Sunday, the community turned to prayer to understand the slayings at a service for the slain family.

"This is an opportunity for people to turn to God," said Debra Kenton, a member of the New Life Community Church. "Who else can explain things like this?"

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

That day, Hall summoned police to a park, saying she had given birth to a stillborn child, 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.

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

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

While in custody, Hart says, Hall told investigators she killed the children at another location, then hauled them home and hid them in the washer and dryer.

Hall 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, 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, Hart said.

Hall remained jailed Sunday on $5 million bond, charged with first-degree murder in Tunstall's death and with intentional homicide of an unborn child.

Meanwhile, stuffed animals continued to mount outside Tunstall's apartment, its door crisscrossed with white evidence tape. There was a white teddy bear, and a stuffed race car with DeMond's name.

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

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

Hall likely will be arraigned Monday on the two charges, each carrying a 20 to 60 years or life in prison, prosecutors said. The murder count could be punishable by the death penalty.

DNA tests should determine definitively whether the baby was the one Tunstall was carrying, Hart said.

___

Associated Press reporter Christopher Leonard contributed to this report.