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Crime scene details emerge at Curry-Demus trial

| Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010

As prosecutors present their case against homicide suspect Andrea Curry-Demus, details of a bloody crime scene emerge.

The non-jury trial for Curry-Demus, 40, of Wilkinsburg, got under way Monday with Demus' mother, doctor, police officers and an EMS paramedic all taking the stand.

Curry-Demus is accused of killing Kia Johnson, 18, of McKeesport, in July 2008 and cutting Johnson's unborn baby from her womb. Johnson's partially decomposed body was recovered in Demus' apartment in Wilkinsburg several days after she was seen leaving the Allegheny County Jail with Curry-Demus, where the two are believed to have met while visiting their incarcerated boyfriends.

Photographic and physical evidence from the crime scene was presented toward the end of Monday afternoon as Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli questioned Allegheny County Homicide Detective Timothy Langan about his investigation of the murder.

Tranquilli presented items to the court that were recovered from the apartment. They included three bloody knives, a roll of plastic kitchen wrap and a bloodstained roll of duct tape. Also submitted were blue jeans that belonged to Johnson that were found stuffed in Curry-Demus' hamper with duct tape around one of the ankle cuffs. Photographic evidence included items as they were found in Demus' apartment, bloody pillows and bedding and a bloodstained bathroom.

Most disturbing of all was a photo of Johnson as she was found by police, wrapped in bedding and plastic bags and stuffed in a hollow space behind the headboard of Demus' bed and her bedroom wall.

The prosecution said Curry-Demus should not be excused from a first-degree murder charge because she has mental health issues.

"The defendant was not mentally insane. She knew what she was doing was wrong," Tranquilli argued in his opening statement. The prosecutor noted an incident in 1990 in which Curry-Demus stabbed a pregnant woman and kidnapped another woman's baby from a local hospital. He said because of that incident and the resulting prison term, "She knew she could not leave Kia Johnson alive."

Arguing that Curry-Demus also is not mentally deficient, Tranquilli said the case he will present will prove "she had been carefully constructing this web, much like a spider" for weeks in advance.

Tranquilli told Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey A. Manning he will ask that the judge find her "guilty but mentally ill."

Demus' attorney Christopher Patarini told the court his client is not guilty by reason of insanity and said he would present information from mental health experts indicating "she was operating under severe psychosis when she cut the baby from the womb."

Patarini described the defendant as a woman who'd suffered from delusions and other mental disorders for years.

One of the main delusions Curry-Demus is described as suffering was that she believed she experienced a number of pregnancies and miscarriages.

Her physician, Dr. Karen Valazquez, told the court she'd seen Curry-Demus regularly over the course of nine years and that to her knowledge, Curry-Demus had never been pregnant or miscarried. The doctor said she wasn't aware Curry-Demus suffered from mental issues and that her patient hadn't suffered from any reproductive disorders.

In November 2007, the doctor said Curry-Demus had taken a urine test to see if she was pregnant. When the test came back positive, Valazquez said she'd informed Curry-Demus but also said such tests sometimes give false readings and that an additional blood test would have to be administered to be sure. The blood test was given and it turned out Curry-Demus was not pregnant, the doctor said.

A staff member called Curry-Demus and told her she was not pregnant.

Curry-Demus apparently never told family members about the second, negative test.

The defendant's mother Sharon Curry, 57, of Wilkinsburg, said she and others were with her daughter at home when a phone call about the positive urine test came in.

"Will you tell my mom?" Curry reported her daughter had asked a moment before handing her the phone. Curry, under questioning, couldn't remember the doctor's name, but said she heard the doctor clearly say that Curry-Demus was pregnant.

Curry said her daughter's due date was the end of June and that family members immediately began planning a baby shower. From that point on, Curry said, all conversations with her daughter had to do with her pregnancy. At one point, Curry-Demus even showed her family members an ultrasound picture of a baby that she claimed was hers.

"We rubbed her belly," the mother said. "Her eyes were lit up."

"I was on cloud nine," Curry said, describing her reaction to hearing her daughter was going to become a mother. "I was very, very happy."

Curry-Demus told her mother that doctors planned to induce labor at the end of June. When the date for inducement passed, Curry said her daughter told her "something was wrong."

On July 15, Curry said she'd just started her 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. nurses aide job at UPMC Montefiore Hospital when her daughter called and said she was having contractions. Curry left work early and went straight to her daughter's apartment, which is only a few blocks from her own along Ella Street, to check on her well-being.

Curry said she, Curry-Demus and her other daughter Brooke Curry and another woman stayed part of the night. Curry said she didn't notice anything was amiss and left around 11 p.m. with her daughter walking her back to her home a few blocks away.

Curry said she went to bed for the night. Curry-Demus called her the next morning to tell her she'd delivered. Curry went to her apartment and noticed that both of her daughters had blood on them and there was blood in the bathroom. Curry said she told them to call 911 right away and that Brooke Curry said she already had and no ambulance crew had responded. The mother said she then called 911.

Curry said she saw the baby, which had not been cleaned after birth, on the couch with Curry-Demus in the apartment. When asked by the prosecutor how the baby looked, Curry said, "Beautiful."

Curry-Demus was transported to West Penn Hospital where she continued to claim the baby was hers, though she would not let doctors examine her.

Hospital staff later told Curry that her daughter hadn't given birth.

Curry said when she asked her daughter what was going on, she told her, "Mom, I bought a baby."

Curry-Demus also told authorities that she bought the baby for $1,000 from a young black woman named Tina known to frequent the Wilkinsburg and Homewood areas. She then changed the story to implicate other individuals in a baby-snatching plot.

When questioned whether she believed that her daughter had bought the baby, Curry answered softly, "I don't know."

Neither the mother, nor the sister Brooke Curry, who testified at a mental competency hearing for her sister last year, has admitted to looking inside Curry-Demus' bedroom before Johnson's body was found. A responding EMS crew also overlooked the bedroom.

Tranquilli said that Johnson was alive and restrained inside Demus' bedroom the night of July 15. He alleges Curry-Demus harvested the baby before wrapping Johnson in duct tape to suffocate her.

Johnson's baby, Terrell Kian Barnes, survived the attack and is now in the custody of the Johnson family.

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