A psychiatric expert says that a term known as “maternal desire,” which can kick in after a failed relationship or pregnancy loss, is what prompts some women to steal babies.
“The desire to have a child can become pathological,” Asim Shah, the Chief of Psychiatry for Ben Taub Hospital and executive vice chair of Community Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine, told the Houston Chronicle. “When the woman so desperately wants a child, she may try to take one from somebody close to her.”
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Magen Fieramusca has been accused of kidnapping her supposed close friend, Heidi Broussard, and Broussard’s newborn infant, Margo, from their Austin apartment.
Fieramusca also accused of tampering with a human corpse after Broussard was found dead in the trunk of Fieramusca’s car. Baby Margo was found inside Fieramusca’s Houston residence, and according to police, she tried to pass the baby off as her own.
Sometimes, women with maternal desire will turn violent if they don’t get what they want. For instance, in July 2019, Clarissa Figueroa and her daughter Desiree Figueroa, of Chicago, were slapped with murder charges after they allegedly ripped a baby from his mother’s womb, then strangled the mother to death.
In 2017, Brooke Crews and William Hoehn were arrested after authorities found North Dakota mom Savanna Greywind’s newborn in their apartment. Investigators later found Greywind dead and tossed near a river. The suspects were accused of luring Greywind to their apartment and cutting the baby girl from her womb.
“It’s erratic, abnormal behavior,” Shah explained to the outlet. “It happens usually in people who are either depressed, anxious, have a psychosis or personality disorder, or are in a delusional state.”
In the case of Broussard, Fieramusca allegedly manipulated everyone around her by pretending to be a caring friend. She was at the hospital as Broussard gave birth and stayed at her home for several days.
Less than a month later, on December 12, 2019, Fieramusca allegedly picked Broussard and Margo up from their apartment off of West William Cannon Drive and South First Street in Austin, and drove away. Broussard never returned.
A medical examiner said Broussard died from asphyxiation. Although her manner of death has been listed as homicide, no one yet has yet been charged with killing her. Prosecutors in the case said that charges, “including capital murder,” are a possibility.
“Regarding indictments, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office is exploring every appropriate charge based on facts and circumstances in the case, up to and including capital murder,” Director of Trial Division, Guillermo Gonzalez, said, according to ABC 13.
Baby Margot is now home safe with her father after Texas authorities swarmed Fieramusca’s home on December 19 and found the infant inside, sitting in a baby swing.
When Texas Ranger Gary Phillips spoke to Fieramusca at her home, the woman claimed that Margo was her child and that she had given birth in The Woodlands at a birthing center. She allegedly claimed she couldn’t remember the exact name of the birthing center. Hospital records later determined that Margo was not her child.
According to “Legal and Criminological Psychology,” Volume 7, Issue 1, maternal desire abductions are typically carried out by “non-familial female perpetrators.” It’s also considered extremely rare.
According to Beth Alberts, CEO of the Texas Center for the Missing and director of the Houston Regional Amber Plan, newborn abductions used to take place mostly in hospitals. Women are now targeting friends or acquaintances after hospitals across the nation upped security measures.
Maternal desire, also coined “baby replacement,” almost always happens when the suspect knows a woman who is pregnant or who has recently given birth. These types of abductions are hardly ever random.
“It’s not usually random. It certainly could be, but no, usually the person has sort of stalked the mother, watched the pregnancy and sometimes befriended the woman to get close to her and basically get access,” Alberts told ABC 13.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports that people with the intention of stealing a newborn typically display behavioral signs, which can include:
- Compulsive, manipulative and deceitful behavior
- In a relationship or may have recently broken up, but claims to still be in a relationship
- Usually lives in the area where the abduction takes place (or is familiar with the area)
- Usually plans the abduction in advance, but may also seize “any opportunity present” to abduct the baby
- Often brings a weapon with her when abducting the baby (although the weapon may not be used)
Psychiatric studies also determined that most women with an intent to abduct a newborn will go to great lengths to carry out their plans. Fieramusca is not only accused of pretending to be pregnant, but she also created a baby registry online and reportedly made her ex-boyfriend believe she had given birth while he was away working.
Fieramusca also spoke frequently with Broussard over the phone about pregnancy and led her to believe that she would be having a child around the same time that Broussard’s baby was due.
“They will try to copy the person that is actually pregnant,” Shah added. “They are so focused on the child that they end up believing that they are actually the mother.”
Fieramusca is currently behind bars in Travis County. Her next court hearing is scheduled for February.
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[Feature Photo: Megan Fieramusca/Police Handout & Heidi Broussard & Margo/Handout]