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Many New or Expectant Mothers Die Violent Deaths

As analyst Mizell said, "You have to wonder how many missing-person cases happened because she was pregnant."

The Killers

Tammy Baker, 24, was a well-liked bookkeeper who lived in an apartment in Louisa, Va., 30 miles east of Charlottesville, when she met Coleman "Mike" Johnson Jr., a contractor on a repair job at a nearby nuclear power plant.

Christina Colon, 24, was fatally shot this year in Pennsylvania, where her boyfriend is awaiting trial. She was five months pregnant.

_____About This Series_____

The Toll: Researchers are just beginning to discover what has been a hidden risk of pregnancy: Pregnant women and new mothers are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any single natural cause, several statewide studies have shown.

The Victims: As public health experts focus new attention on homicide during pregnancy, the Washington region has become a focal point. Research rarely casts light on the lives of those who were slain or how violence entered their lives at such a pivotal time.


The Legacy: The tragedy of maternal homicide lingers in the lives of children left behind, some of them born as their mothers were dying. Older siblings sometimes witnessed the violence. The children often must be raised by their grandparents.

Video: Recovering at Ceeatta's House
Photo Gallery: The Missing Stories
Maternal Homicide in D.C. Area
_____From The Post_____
Violence Intersects Lives of Promise (The Washington Post, Dec 20, 2004)
States Add Penalties For Death of Unborn (The Washington Post, Dec 20, 2004)
Researchers Stunned By Scope of Slayings (The Washington Post, Dec 19, 2004)
How the Series Was Reported (The Washington Post, Dec 19, 2004)
_____For Information or Help_____
National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE
D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 202-299-1181
Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, 301-352-4574
Virginians Against Domestic Violence, 804-377-0335

The two hit it off for a time, then parted ways. One day, Baker called him to say she was pregnant and intended to have the baby. They argued repeatedly by phone, recalls Tracey Ryder, a friend of Baker's. He did not want a baby, nor did he want any child support obligations. But Baker did not change her mind.

By the time Baker was eight months pregnant, she had chosen a name, Savannah, and decorated a room for the baby girl she was expecting; she worked two jobs to save money.

But the conflict with Johnson never went away. On Dec. 3, 1997, Baker stooped down for what looked like a mislaid garbage can lid outside her apartment door.

Beneath the lid were two pipe bombs.

Baker was killed instantly in the explosion, which literally shook the earth in Louisa, and people in the small town found it hard to imagine. Who would kill a pregnant woman?

"He did it for money," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bondurant. "He didn't want to pay child support."

As in other cases, Johnson at first denied it was his child, then pressed for an abortion, then plotted murder.

"It seems to me that these guys hope against hope for a miscarriage or an abortion, but when everything else fails, they take the life of the woman to avoid having the baby," said Jack Levin of Northeastern University.

Ashley Lyons, 18, faced a similar horror in a park near her old high school in Kentucky early this year -- on the day she went to her doctor for an ultrasound and learned she would be having a boy. She was 22 weeks along.

She had already picked out a name, Landon, and created a baby journal. As one entry gave way to another, she confided her ex-boyfriend's opposition to the pregnancy. Still, she wrote: "You are the child I have always dreamed about. . . . I know it will be a long time before I meet you, but I can't wait to hold you for the first time."

Excited by the ultrasound Jan. 7, Lyons made plans to show the fetal pictures to her ex-boyfriend, Roger McBeath Jr., 22. She left her family's home, telling her mother she would be back for dinner. But when her father and brother found her, she was sitting in her parked car -- with the car engine running and the headlights on.

She had been shot twice in the head and once in the neck. In her lap was her handbag -- half opened -- with the ultrasound picture inside, her father said.

"He knew that if she had that baby that she would be in his life forever, and he didn't want that," said prosecutor Shawna Jewell.

On a cold Kentucky afternoon four days later, Lyons was buried with her tiny baby tucked into her arms.

Staff writer David S. Fallis and staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.

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