Woman charged with cutting fetus from mother has multiple personalities

Mar 9 2012 - 10:52am

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Annette Morales-Rodriguez
Annette Morales-Rodriguez

MILWAUKEE -- The woman charged with cutting the late-term fetus from a young mother, with hopes of passing the baby off as her own, suffers from a multiple personality disorder, according to the report of a new mental exam.

The 57-page report released Thursday concludes that Annette Morales-Rodriguez suffered horrific sexual abuse and abandonment as a child and has adopted extremely dissociative behavior to block it out. The truth only emerged during 13 hours of interviews in which her alter-ego, "Lara," emerged, according to the report.

"Lara admitted to tragically believing that as a separate 'person' she could sacrificially spare Annette from imprisonment by coming forward herself and confessing to the crime," states Anne Speckhard, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Medical School who was part of the defense team for Lorena Bobbitt, found not guilty by reason of insanity after infamously cutting of her husband's penis.

Morales-Rodriguez, 34, has entered a similar plea, but a state psychiatrist in December found that she did not suffer from a mental disease or defect. She is charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the October deaths of Maritza Ramirez, 23, and her unborn son.

According to the criminal complaint, Morales-Rodriguez went looking for a pregnant woman near a south side social service agency, found Ramirez and offered her a ride. They got some medicine for Ramirez, then stopped at Morales-Rodriguez's house to use the bathroom.

There, the complaint charges, the defendant struck Ramirez multiple times with a baseball bat, then strangled her unconscious before using an Exacto knife to cut her child from her womb, trying, she told detectives, to duplicate a Caesarean section she'd seen performed on the Discovery Channel.

Speckhard, the defense expert, also has testified in courts around the country and before Congress about post-traumatic stress disorder, and worked with international committees on terrorism and its sociocultural effects. She also has studied and written about the traumatic stress of abortion, according to her website.

But in court Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams questioned her qualifications, noting her doctorate is in family social science, and that federal judges in Wisconsin have declined to recognize her as an expert in two other cases.

Whether it ever becomes evidence, Speckhard's report offers fascinating reading about a condition -- dissociative disorder disease, or DID -- believed to exist in less than 1 percent of people.

According to the report, in the first several hours of an interview at the jail, Morales-Rodriguez spoke of a fairly happy, normal childhood. But eventually, Speckhard noticed that when the conversation turned to the facts of the case or other trauma, Morales-Rodriguez's eyes would roll up and her eyelids would flutter rapidly, as "Lara" would emerge.

According to Speckhard, Lara is only a personality fragment, developed to absorb the most traumatic experiences and memories of Morales-Rodriguez's abuse and abandonment by her mother, and the death of her grandmother. Like those events, the October murders don't register in Annette's memory, while Lara can recall them in numb detail. The report includes lengthy accounts of each personality speaking of the other, and mentions a videotaped emergence of Lara during the second daylong interview.

"The change was quite dramatic in bodily posture, musculature, emotional tone, etc." the report states.

Speckhard concludes that Morales-Rodriguez continues to suffer from a severe mental defect that affects her capacity to "understand and morally evaluate her decisions and actions" and is dire need of lengthy therapy.

According to the report:

Morales-Rodriguez suffered long-term sexual abuse until about age 12. Her mother left the family, and her grandmother, who had taken over parenting, died when Morales-Rodriguez was 16, a very traumatic event that triggered her first realization of Lara.

After moving to Milwaukee, she met a boyfriend who she said wanted to have a child with her. She believed she was pregnant in 2010 and had physical signs that she was, but learned at a clinic that she was not, and that she'd undergone tubal ligation in Puerto Rico years earlier. She was unaware she was sterile and really wanted to have a baby with her new boyfriend and so was devastated. Early in 2011, she began her next "psychological pregnancy."

When that was coming up on 9 months, Lara took over, telling her she was naive to believe she was pregnant, but then, somehow, concocted the plan to get a baby for Morales-Rodriguez so she wouldn't suffer so much and took over "executive control of her mind and body."

Morales-Rodriguez's case took an odd turn recently when the prosecutor asked the court to hold a hearing at which she would be required to waive any potential conflicts of interest by two of her attorneys. One, Patrick Rupich, is currently facing charges of drunken driving, and another, Robert D'Arruda, is the victim in a domestic violence case being prosecuted by Williams' office.

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Borowski admonished the defense lawyers Thursday for not yet explaining the situation in detail to their client. As a result, she could not waive the possible conflict issue at the hearing. Attorney Michael Torphy had tried to argue that there's no basis for the state's motion.

Borowski stressed that it is the mere appearance of a possible conflict, and the chance Morales-Rodriguez might later raise it, that requires her to waive it now, not any suggestion of an actual conflict.

A new date was set to address that and other issues in the case, including a final version of Speckhard's report, which was marked as a draft because she is awaiting more medical and child protective services reports.

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