ADDISON, Ill. — News about 19-year-old Marlen Ochoa-Lopez being murdered and having her baby cut from her womb took over headlines last week. However, the horrifying story is not the first of its kind.
A similar story rocked the Chicago area about 25 years ago.
Debra Evans was a mother of three and close to delivering her fourth child when she was brutally murdered and had her baby cut from her womb.
The crime, which is called fetal abduction, happened in Addison, Ill., on Nov. 16, 1995.
Sam Evans, Debra Evan’s father, spoke to WGN from his rural home about five hours outside of Chicago. Evans lost his daughter when three people shot and killed her inside her Addison home.
They killed her two oldest children and cut her fourth child from her womb, so Jacqueline Annette Williams could claim it as her own. They left Evans’ 1-year-old, Jordan, to live.
One of the suspects, Levern Ward, helped them pull off the crime. He is the father of both Jordan and the baby who was later named Elijah.
“I put my life on hold so i could raise these little children these two little boys, just like I raised their mother,” Evans said.
While Evans was raising his grandchildren and teaching them what it means to live and forgive, the court system repeatedly ripped off the scab and called him back to court for high profile hearings involving the convicted murderers.
The real pain came rushing back when Gov. George Ryan in 2003 cleared out Illinois’ Death Row acknowledging a broken system. Two of the 167 inmates granted clemency were convicted of killing Debra Evans.
“We were told they would be in jail, without parole for the rest of their life,” Evans said. “Then everything changes.”
But with time, the Evans’ found ways to move forward as a family without hate.
“I couldn’t continue hating them and holding a grudge. I saw what it was doing to the boys. Which meant it was doing that to me,” he said.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children logged nearly 20 of these rare, but unthinkable, crimes over the past 30 years — crude cesareans of at-term babies cut from their pregnant mothers’ wombs.
In 2015, a woman in Colorado posted baby clothes for sale online. She, like allegations in the recent Chicago case, kidnapped the pregnant mother, tried to kill her and extracted the fetus. The mother survived, but the baby did not.
In 2017, a man and woman in Fargo, N.D., also conspired to kidnap and murder an unsuspecting 22-year-old woman. They killed her after they removed her baby from her womb. That baby survived.
While the Chicago area’s Debra Evans did not survive, her son Elijah did. He is now 23 years old, lives nearby and is doing well.
With time, Elijah and his older brother Jordan are saying less and less about the case that has shaped their lives. It appears they are trying turn the page on this brutal chapter. They’d like to begin writing their own story.