By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
For nearly five days, police said, Veronica D. Deramous kept the pregnant woman, bound with duct tape, inside her Suitland apartment, giving her food and drink to keep her alive. Deramous wanted the woman's unborn baby girl, police said, and was willing to get it by any means.
Sometime over the weekend, police said, Deramous turned up the volume on the TV, shoved a rag in the woman's mouth and put a piece of tape over it. Then she uttered a chilling warning.
"You're strong," Deramous told her victim, according to police. "You can handle what I'm going to do to you."
Using a few box cutters and a razor blade, Deramous cut into the woman's abdomen, police said. When the woman, 29 and homeless, escaped sometime in the next 24 hours, her placenta, stomach and intestines were still exposed.
"It's 100 percent the most bizarre thing I've ever seen in 15 1/2 years on the department," said Capt. Misty Mints, a Prince George's County police spokeswoman. "I can't even imagine what this victim must have gone through, the complete horror."
On Sunday, several hours after the pregnant woman fled the apartment in the 3500 block of Silver Park Drive, Deramous was arrested in Arlington County. She is charged with attempted first-degree murder, false imprisonment and related counts, police said.
The pregnant woman, who was in her third trimester at the time of the attack, was critically wounded but is expected to make a full recovery, police said. So is her daughter, delivered by emergency Caesarean section and named Miracle, police said.
Details in the case were emerging, and investigators had not conducted a full interview with the new mother, Mints said. Police declined to identify her.
Deramous declined to answer investigators' questions. But this much is clear:
Sometime last week, Mints said, Deramous, 40, met the pregnant woman at the Queen of Peace, Missionaries of Charity homeless shelter on Wheeler Road in Southeast Washington and told her she would help her get some baby clothes. The woman went to Deramous's apartment in Suitland, where Deramous attacked her, bound her with duct tape and left her in a back bedroom, Mints said. Deramous had told relatives and her boyfriend that she herself was pregnant, even though she was not, Mints said.
A nun at the shelter, who declined to give her name, said the pregnant woman told staff members Wednesday that she was going to Baltimore with a woman named Stephanie to get baby clothes. Mints said that Deramous, whose criminal record includes a forgery conviction in Georgia, had been using the alias Stephanie Mills.
What happened over the next five days remained unclear. Deramous lived with her 17-year-old son in the Suitland apartment, but the son told investigators that he did not know what was happening to the pregnant woman because she was in the back bedroom, Mints said. Then, sometime Saturday or Sunday, Mints said, Deramous attempted to remove the baby from the woman's uterus.
Deramous has no medical training and gave the woman no painkillers before cutting into her abdomen, Mints said. After the attempt, Deramous apparently went to sleep, Mints said.
That allowed the woman to wriggle free of her bonds and run outside, Mints said. Alerted to the woman's escape, Deramous ran after her, and there was a struggle in an outside hallway, Mints said.
Soon, neighbors were coming out of their apartments, and Deramous told her son that they had to flee, Mints said.
A man called 911 to report the incident, although he apparently thought Deramous was a man, she said.
Efforts to reach Deramous's relatives were unsuccessful. Police said the pregnant woman identified Deramous from a photo lineup, and detectives made phone contact with her in Arlington before arresting her about 7 p.m. Sunday.
Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.