Fetal Theft in Oregon

09 Jun

Heather Snively was 21 years old, pregnant, and looking forward to the birth of her child. Unfortunately she crossed paths with Korena Roberts, who apparently had been telling everyone that she was pregnant, with twins no less. She wasn’t. So I guess she needed a baby to cover her lie. Sounds as though she needed two but regardless she found an unwilling donor in the person of Heather Snively.

It is alleged that Roberts lured Snively to her home, killed her, and then cut her near-term child from her womb. The autopsy done on Heather Snively supports this scenario. On Friday, June 5, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue was summoned to the Roberts home, apparently because a child was in distress. They found Roberts’ boyfriend attempting CPR on a newborn and Roberts herself told police that she had just delivered the baby. It didn’t take long for doctors to figure out that that wasn’t the case. Then the body of Heather Snively was found a crawl space in Roberts’ home. Roberts was arrested for murder. The child did not survive and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Here are some links to the story:

Oregonian Story


I know many of you are asking how on Earth is this possible? Not just the psychological defects that someone must have to do this, but physically how is it done? Is it that easy to remove a living baby for its mother’s womb? Not really.

When a physician delivers a baby by Cesarian section, he must work very efficiently. Once he opens the abdomen and isolates the uterus, he must be prepared to go very quickly. Experience and good hands are key here. When the uterus is opened, the baby senses that things within its environment are changing. It becomes active, begins to move around, and the drive to take that first breath kicks in. This means the surgeon must remove the child from the womb and the amniotic fluid and lift the baby into the fresh air before that first breath is taken. Any delay can result in fetal complications or death.

So what does someone do when performing this procedure with no medical skills, no medical equipment, and in some basement room or garage or wherever? Fetal thieves have used all types of instruments from kitchen knives to box cutters to hatchets and just about any other sharp object you can think of. Most have no clue what they’re doing and therefore the baby often dies before it can be removed.

This is particularly true if the mother is murdered first. Once the mother is dead and the blood flow to the placenta, which is the child’s only source of oxygen, is removed, the child is placed under great stress. The drive to breathe takes over and the child can literally drown in its own amniotic fluid. Emergent C-sections are sometime done is cases of sudden maternal death, such as after a heart attack, a stroke, or an auto accident. Even when done under ideal conditions in a hospital OR, the procedure is fraught with complications and is very high-risk to the fetus. Put a sociopathic novice in charge and things don’t usually work out well. As in this case.

What of those who attempt to remove the baby from a living mother? This is almost too horrible to comprehend but unfortunately it does happen. As I said, these people have serious mental defects and sociopathic personalities, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing this in the first place. But if the mother is restrained, and if the womb can be opened before the baby is too aroused, then the baby can be born alive. Or not. Too often it’s the not.

In the case of Heather Snively, she was apparently murdered first and then the child was taken and the child did not survive. Now Roberts is arrested for the murder of Snively and I would not be surprised if she were also charged with the murder of the infant since it was a near-term baby.

You probably think this is a rare and unusual circumstance. Unfortunately it isn’t. Here’s a link to a great article by my friend Dr. Katherine Ramsland that is posted on the TruTV Crime Library site. This will help you understand this very bizarre form of murder.

Fetal Snatchers by Dr. Katherine Ramsland


Posted by on June 9, 2009 in Interesting Cases


6 responses to “Fetal Theft in Oregon

  1. Victoria Allman

    June 9, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Are you trying to give us clues to this years Private Practice cliffhanger?
    I thought these things just happened on TV…


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      June 9, 2009 at 12:21 pm

      Unfortunately, no. They happen in the real world too. Human depravity has no bounds.


  2. Pat Gulley

    June 10, 2009 at 11:44 am

    In Oregon. Last new item I saw said they may not be able to charge her with the death of the baby because they don’t know if it was truly alive when cut out.
    Another question not yet answered is why Roberts was obsessed with being pregnant and obtaining a baby. She has 2 other children.


    • Karen in Ohio

      June 12, 2009 at 5:49 am

      Why did the Octomom want more children? She already had six.

      Some people are just nuts. Period.


      • D.P. Lyle, MD

        June 12, 2009 at 9:31 am

        Amen to that. Her psychopathology is broad and deep and probably not fixable. But the person I really have issue with is the Doc that did the implants.



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