DENVER — The Colorado woman accused of cutting the baby from an expectant mother's belly will not face murder charges in the gruesome attack that revived the highly charged debate over when a fetus can legally be considered a human being.
There is no evidence the baby girl lived outside the womb after Michelle Wilkins was attacked with a knife and the child removed, Boulder County coroner Emma Hall said Friday.
Dynel Lane, 34, is accused of luring Wilkins, 26, to her home with a Craigslist ad selling baby clothes. Wilkins, who was about eight months pregnant, survived and left the hospital this week.
Prosecutors planned to file charges against Lane Friday but have said they won't include murder. Under Colorado law, someone can only face that charge in the death of a fetus if there is evidence a baby survived apart from its mother.
The decision angered some Republican lawmakers in a state that ranks among the 12 without a fetal homicide law. The Legislature voted down such a measure in 2013 over fears it would interfere with abortion rights, and voters overwhelmingly agreed when they rejected a similar ballot measure in 2014.
But Senate President Bill Cadman announced Friday that legislation was being drafted to extend legal protections to unborn children.
"This was a child. A child was murdered," he said in statement. "That Coloradans have no way to hold the murderer responsible, or deliver justice for the victims, is a gap in Colorado's justice system which can no longer be ignored."
Colorado legislators did pass a measure that makes it a felony to violently cause the death of a mother's fetus. The maximum punishment under that provision is 32 years in prison, whereas a person convicted of homicide in Colorado could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Legal experts say a person can still be charged with homicide for an unborn child's death under existing Colorado law if the baby was alive outside the mother's body and the act that led to the death also occurred there.
The news that Lane won't face a murder charge came the same week California authorities arrested a woman they say masterminded a plot to kill mothers and steal their babies to pass off as her own after telling her married boyfriend she gave birth to his twins.