Roberts could receive death penalty

Roberts could receive death penalty »Play Video
Korena Roberts enters the Washington County courtroom in Hillsboro, Ore. on Monday, June 15, 2009. (AP Photo/Pool, Jaime Valdez)

HILLSBORO, Ore. (AP) - A woman accused of cutting a fetus out of another woman after they met during a search for baby clothes on the Internet has been indicted on aggravated murder charges.

Korena Roberts, 27, had been facing a lesser murder charge before a grand jury indicted her Monday on four counts of the more serious charges, which carry a potential death penalty.

Prosecutors had been reviewing evidence to determine whether Roberts could also be charged with the June 5 death of the baby boy. But Oregon law requires a showing that a baby draw at least one breath to survive briefly outside the womb before any separate charge can be considered.

Washington County District Attorney Bob Hermann said at a news conference that an autopsy by a deputy state medical examiner and interviews with emergency workers found no evidence the baby had survived.

Hermann said the aggravated murder charges allege that Roberts attempted to rob and kidnap the baby from 21-year-old Heather Snively, and tried to conceal the crimes.

Roberts appeared briefly in court late in the afternoon to hear the charges in the indictment but did not enter a plea. Her next hearing was set for 8:30 a.m. Monday before Washington County Circuit Judge Donald Letourneau, who will preside over the trial.

Hermann said no documents with details about the investigation can be released until after that hearing.

Prosecutors have not said how Snively was killed, other than autopsy results which showed blunt force trauma.

Investigators have said Snively met Roberts while Snively was searching for baby items on the Internet.

Chris Popp, the father of the baby, joined Hermann at the news conference Monday to talk about Snively, who was eight months pregnant when she was killed.

Popp, 30, said he and Snively had gotten engaged before they moved from Maryland to Oregon and were planning to get married. They had picked out the name John Stephen for the baby boy.

Popp said he had never met Roberts and did not know that Snively was going to meet her the day she was killed. He went to police at about 11 that night after repeatedly calling Snively's cell phone, only to find out about the deaths a short time later.

"I lived every day with her to the fullest," Popp said, recalling that he turned around to go back and kiss her again and tell her he loved her when he left for work the morning of the day she was killed.

Popp said he has been trying to deal with the loss, and is going to leave it up to the court to judge Roberts.

State Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro, introduced a bill Monday in the Oregon Legislature that would add knowingly killing a pregnant woman, or "maternal homicide," to the list of aggravated murder factors.

There are 36 states with "fetal homicide" laws that allow prosecution for the death of fetus, but Oregon is not among them. A federal law was approved in 2004 following the outcry over the 2002 death of Laci Peterson in Southern California.
      
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)