A registered nurse has been arrested for fatally shooting a new mother and snatching her three-day-old son outside a doctor’s office as she took the baby for a check-up.
Verna Deann McClain, a 30-year-old mother of three who had told relatives she was about to adopt a baby, will face capital murder charges, the district attorney for Montgomery County, Texas said.
In dramatic scenes in the quiet Houston suburb of Spring on Tuesday afternoon, McClain allegedly gunned down 28-year-old Kayla Marie Golden, firing up to seven shots at close range.
Witnesses said a man then threw the baby in a light blue Lexus, which struck Golden as it made its escape. Golden screamed out ‘My baby! My baby!’ as it drove away and died soon after.
Police were led to the Fawndale Apartments in Houston, where a car matching the description of the getaway vehicle was found, ABC News reported.
McClain approached police at the apartment but would not say where the child was—until police received an anonymous tip revealing his whereabouts and McClain confessed.
Deputies found the unharmed baby boy, Keegan Schuchardt, with McClain’s sister, Corina Jackson, at an address in Harris County.
Speaking on Good Morning America, district attorney Brett Ligon admitted it was ‘unusual’ to find the child and suspect so quickly after a murder, and credited the county’s authorities.
Once seized, McClain admitted to shooting the young mother and taking the baby to her home in Harris County, ABC reported. She had picked Golden at random and did not know her.
An affidavit from the Montgomery County police adds that the suspect’s sister, Corina Jackson, said McClain, whose children are 16, 10 and six, had said she was about to adopt a baby.
After the shooting, McClain told her sister she had the baby.
Ligon said authorities ‘believe this was an intentional act on her part, not that Ms. Golden was targeted specifically, but that this was part of a plan to kidnap a child’.
He added: ’She’s given a full statement to the detectives with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department. We did charge her in the early hours of this morning with capital murder.’
The suspect’s estranged husband, Theo McClain from San Diego, California, said: ’I don’t understand that, her taking a child. That doesn’t make sense.’
The couple had two children and raised another from a previous relationship of his. He added: ‘We have three kids. And then to shoot somebody? I’ve never known her to hurt anybody.’
McClain has no previous criminal record and has been a licensed vocational nurse registered in California since 2008. She is being held in the Montgomery County Jail without bond.
Montgomery County police said another person of interest is being questioned.
Ms Golden was walking to her pick-up truck after a check-up with little Keegan, when a woman in a Lexus parked in the adjacent spot starting fighting with her, police said.
Sheriff’s Lt Dan Norris said the woman pulled out a pistol and repeatedly shot Ms Golden at close range. Witnesses reported hearing up to seven shots.
A witness said a man in the car then picked up the infant and put him in the Lexus. Ms Golden tried to reach into the car and take him back as the car sped away, but the driver ran her down.
The shooting happened just after 2pm outside the Northwoods Pediatric Centre in Spring, 20 miles north of Houston, Texas. Keegan was wearing a green-and-white outfit reading ‘handsome’.
Joshua Jesson said he was in the clinic with his girlfriend when he heard gunshots.
He said he saw the Lexus next to the pick-up truck, then later looked back and saw the car was gone and a woman lying in the spot where the Lexus had been parked.
‘I thought she just passed out. Then somebody ran in here and said, “Somebody got shot,”‘ he said.
Police surrounded the parking lot with crime-scene tape. The clinic is in an area thick with strip malls. Golden’s red truck sat next to yellow markers where spent ammunition cartridges were found.
It was not immediately clear how authorities had been led to the apartment block in Houston, where officers were seen wielding guns and riot shields.
Ms Golden’s husband, Keith Schuchardt, took to Facebook on Saturday to report the birth of his son: ‘baby keegan is here. born 4/14/12 6 lbs 15 oz, 20 inches long.’ he wrote. ’Looks like me lol.’
He arrived with Keegan’s grandmother Linda Golden and other family members at Conroe Police Department last night to be reunited with the infant.
But the Houston Chronicle reports that police want to carry out a series of investigations on family members before he is released.
Linda Golden said: ‘My daughter was brutally murdered protecting her baby. I think the baby should be given back to us. We’ve had enough today. We would just like our baby back.’
She added of her daughter: ‘She died trying to save her baby.’
Friends and relatives have expressed their shock at the senseless crime. Friend Jennifer Hartis told KPRC: ‘She never did anything wrong. She’s just a mom doing her best to take care of her kids.
‘Keegan is only three days old. He’s needs to know his mom and he can’t do that now.’
Henry Schuchardt, Keegan’s paternal father, told the affiliate he was searching for answers. ‘I wished I knew, I wished I knew,’ he said. ‘I don’t know how they could do this?’
The baby’s father Keith Schuchardt added to KHOU on Tuesday: ’She was sweet, lovable. I loved her, and she loved me. Everything was going fine until today.’
When asked by reporters what he would tell his wife now, Schuchardt, who had been married to Golden for three years, said: I wish you were here with me to get me through this.’