Pregnant mother's slaying in East St. Louis triggers sad memories for another victim's family

Tuesday, September 26th 2006, 5:54 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) When Katy Salhani heard on the radio that an East St. Louis woman had been killed, her fetus cut from her womb, she couldn't help wondering if her sister's story had played a role.

What if the killer had read the newspapers, she wondered, and saw that in 1995, a baby had survived being cut out of Debra Evans' womb? What if somebody took from this most gruesome story, in which Evans and two of her children were murdered, the thought that this was a way to get a baby?

``It seems like it gives some people almost an encouragement that it can be done,'' Salhani said Monday in a telephone interview. ``It makes me sometimes wish our story hadn't been so publicized.''

Authorities say the suspect in the East St. Louis case, Tiffany Hall, allegedly did try to pass off as her own the fetus that was cut from 23 year old Jimella Tunstall's womb.

A judge entered not guilty pleas on Hall's behalf at her arraignment Monday and ordered psychiatric testing. She was being held on a $5 million bond.

Authorities say Hall also told police she drowned Tunstall's three children, ages 7, 2 and 1, and stuffed them into a washer and dryer at the apartment they shared with their mother. Hall has not been charged in the children's deaths.

For Evans' family, the story immediately brought them back to November 16, 1995.

It was on that day that the 28 year old was murdered in her apartment in the Chicago suburb of Addison. Her womb was slashed open and her nearly full term baby removed.

Her 10 year old daughter was stabbed to death, while a 2 year old son was left unharmed. Her 7 year old son was abducted, his stabbed body later found in an alley, miles away. Three people were charged.

The story of the slayings, which grew out of a plan hatched by a woman who wanted Evans' baby, made headlines around the world and shocked even the most grizzled detectives and crime reporters.

Another case surfaced in the Midwest in 2004 when a Missouri woman was strangled, her fetus cut from her womb. Prosecutors say Lisa Montgomery killed the woman for the baby. The baby survived and authorities contend Montgomery took it home to Kansas where she passed it off as her own to family and friends. She is awaiting trial.

Earlier this month, a woman in Missouri was charged with slashing a young mother's throat and kidnapping her baby; the baby was unharmed. A similar case was documented in New Mexico in 1987.

Debra Evans' father, Sam Evans, who is helping raise his grandsons, now 10 and 12, in Lawrenceville, said he's not sure if the boys know about the latest slayings in East St. Louis. But he said they know all about how their mother and two siblings died and he expects that sooner or later one or both of them will bring it up.

``There's no sense in trying to hide anything,'' he said.

Evans said he's not sure what he will tell them but he figures it will be along the lines of what he's said when they've asked about what happened to their mother and their brother and sister.

``I've told them there are just bad people and good people and the bad people are really bad and they have no value of life,'' he said.