Charges could be filed soon in infant abduction; Mo. family expresses joy, relief

Monday, September 18th 2006, 9:51 pm
By: News On 6

UNION, Mo. (AP) _ Reunited with her kidnapped newborn, Stephenie Ochsenbine cradled her daughter Wednesday and told a national TV audience she couldn't describe the feeling.

``The last several days have been draining, just exhausting. But I can handle anything now,'' the 21-year-old woman said on NBC's ``Today'' show, her neck bandaged after her throat was slashed during Friday's abduction.

Asked what it was like to have her baby, Abby, back in her arms, she replied: ``It's indescribable.''

``She belongs with me,'' Ochsenbine told MSNBC. ``We're doing great now, we're whole again and she's very content, actually. Said father James Woods: ``I just wanted to hug her.''

Investigators said Shannon Beck was arrested Tuesday after her sister-in-law, Dorothy Torrez, contacted authorities. Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said Beck had recently miscarried a full-term fetus.

``She's the hero,'' Toelke said of Torrez. ``She's the one that made it happen.''

Torrez became suspicious when she noticed makeup on the forehead of the baby her sister-in-law was claiming to have delivered a few days earlier.

She rubbed off the makeup and found a strawberry-red birthmark that matched the description provided by investigators who had been searching for the baby.

Torrez contacted police, and hours later a healthy 11-day-old Abigale Lynn Woods was reunited with her parents. Beck was taken into custody and remained in the county jail Wednesday.

The sheriff's office said charges would likely be filed against Beck by late Wednesday, though the specific charges were not disclosed.

A phone message left at the Beck home in Lonedell on Wednesday morning was not immediately returned.

Ochsenbine told police Friday a woman entered her rural home, attacked her with a knife and stole the baby, who was a week old at the time.

That's the same day that officials believe Beck's own full-term pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.

During the search for Abby, investigators had profiled the abductor as someone who had a child die recently or as someone who could not have children.

Beck lives just a few miles from Ochsenbine's home near Lonedell, FBI Special Agent Roland Corvington said.

Beck told Torrez on Sunday that she had given birth, the FBI agent said. Visiting Beck the next day, Torrez persuaded her sister-in-law to take the baby to see a doctor, and on Tuesday Torrez went with Beck to St. Louis for that doctor's visit.

That's when she discovered the birthmark and confronted Beck, who gave her the baby. Abby was handed over to authorities at about 5 p.m.

``An outstanding ending, obviously,'' Toelke said. ``You talk about a lead breaking the case, and this was it.''

Health care officials said it appears Abby had been well cared for since she was taken.

The small rural eastern Missouri communities near where Abby was abducted celebrated her safe return. The clerks at a convenience store in St. Clair drew a cardboard sign that said ``Welcome home Abby.''

``We were upset and now we're excited and we can't even concentrate,'' clerk Debbie Young said.

Regina Hampson of Lonedell, manager of the only gas station in town said residents were rejoicing. ``It was a tear-jerking time for the whole town.''