Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Fetal Snatchers

Kidnapped

Amanda Howard
Amanda Howard

Amanda Howard, 18, was expecting her first baby as early as a week hence, and she didn't realize she'd been targeted for assault until too late. Two girls, Lauren M. Gash, 19 (or 20), and Alisa D. Betts, 17, had lured her out of her home on July 31, 2007 with a ruse. Apparently they'd met her on the Internet, on MySpace, where she'd placed an ad looking for baby clothing. They told her they would show her where she could purchase inexpensive goods for babies. They picked her up but then started talking between themselves about a "plan." One asked the other, "How are we going to do this?"

Lauren Gash & Alisa Betts
Lauren Gash & Alisa Betts

Amanda sensed she should not have gotten into the car with them and she reached for her cell phone to call 911, but they sprayed her in the face with Mace, and as she struggled to recover, bound her with duct tape. Forcing her into their car, they drove her to a motel, the Interstate Inn in Blue Springs, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, and took her into a room they'd rented to imprison her.

Alisa Betts
Alisa Betts

They had apparently plotted together to steal Amanda's baby, but at one point, Betts left the room and called the police to tell them there was a woman in labor. Officers arrived at once, believing they might have to perform a delivery, and went to the hotel room, demanding to be let in. They found Gash there, and she told them her "friend" was in labor. However, they discovered Amanda in the bathroom with duct tape over her mouth and rope burns on her wrist, so according to one newspaper account, they sprayed Gash with pepper spray to subdue her. They then transported Amanda to a hospital for treatment.

Lauren Gash
Lauren Gash

The complaint indicated that Gash had sat on Amanda's distended stomach and twisted her head back and forth in an attempt to injure or kill her. Amanda told police that they had planned to cut her open and let her die there in the room; she was certain that Gash had been trying to break her neck, as she'd felt her neck joints pop several times which Gash was manhandling her. Betts had been there, too, but had walked out.

Betts initially said they were holding Amanda there so the baby's father could come and take the baby after it was born. She also said that two men had asked them to kidnap and tie up the victim, so they could cut the baby from her womb. She apparently didn't know which story she should tell.

In the room, police found duct tape, an X-Acto knife, scissors, a syringe, insulin, a plastic drop cloth, and faked copies of a birth certificate, labeled "Johnny Gash." There was also a list of "needed" items that included a baseball bat, a rope, and a hammer. Gash, it turned out, had told family and acquaintances that she had recently delivered a baby by C-Section at a local hospital. That way, no one would be surprised when she showed up with a baby. She was heavy-set, so a pregnancy story was feasible. She'd taken to wearing maternity pants and had even had a baby shower. During the police interview, they asked if she was pregnant, and she responded, "Not anymore."

Betts and Gash were both charged with first-degree kidnapping, and Gash also received a charge of assault. At the hospital, a sonogram showed that the baby was unharmed, and he was born without complication the next day, on August 1. It took several weeks, but Amanda finally spoke to reporters, telling them she suffered from post traumatic stress, but believed the incident would inspire her to be much more careful, for herself and her baby.

The police surmised that the two abductors had been inspired by the Bobbie Jo Stinnett case, since that had occurred not far away and involved the same idea. While the case was being processed, Amanda was the recipient of an overwhelming number of donations, including so many baby clothes she had to give some away.

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