WALKER — The fetus cut from a woman’s womb during an attack on the mother this week was cremated accidentally prior to a scheduled autopsy, authorities said Friday afternoon.
That voids the possibility of upgrading the feticide count to one of murder, District Attorney Scott Perrilloux said Friday evening. Previously, Perrilloux had said that if evidence showed that the fetus had begun to breathe before it was killed, that the feticide count might be upgraded to murder.
However, Perrilloux said he believes the current counts against the suspect in the case can still be prosecuted.
Jeffery Reynolds, 31, 30259 Milton Road, Walker, was booked Tuesday on counts of first-degree feticide and the attempted second-degree murder of his 28-year-old wife, who remained in critical but stable condition Friday.
Authorities allege Reynolds cut open his wife’s abdomen and pulled the fetus from her womb in their home on Milton Road.
“The child was found on scene deceased with a large laceration on top of the child’s skull,” according to a detective’s affidavit attached to the warrant for the arrest of Reynolds on the first-degree feticide count.
Dr. Ron Coe, the Livingston Parish coroner, said Friday afternoon that a funeral home employee accidentally cremated the fetus.
“Livingston Parish government does not maintain a morgue” and has always had to rely on a private funeral home, Coe said.
“Without our knowledge or authorization, a funeral home employee mistakenly removed and cremated the Reynolds fetus prior to autopsy,” the coroner said.
State Police and the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office are “investigating the details of the cremation,” and the district attorney was notified, he said.
“The family has been informed and has requested privacy,” Coe said.
The warrant for Reynolds’ arrest alleges he attacked his wife, who was 71/2 months pregnant, with a kitchen knife inside their home.
During the attack, Reynolds cut her “across her throat and abdomen and removed their unborn child,” the affidavit by sheriff’s Detective Jeff Beatty states.
Officials said Reynolds called 911 and that the sounds of his wife screaming in the background can be heard on the tape.
When officers arrived on the scene, they found the suspect kneeling over the victim, the affidavit for his arrest states.
After authorities struggled with and subdued Reynolds, he was taken to a hospital where he was tested for drugs, Sheriff Jason Ard said.
Ard has asked for an expedited determination of whether there were any drugs in Reynolds’ system, said Lori Steele, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office.
The cremation does not change the counts against Reynolds, who remained in the Livingston Parish Detention Center under a $500,000 bond late Friday, Steele said.
Reynolds has no prior criminal history, Steele said.
Steele said Reynolds has only a traffic citation on his record, and the Sheriff’s Office has found no evidence that deputies ever went to the Reynolds residence on any previous domestic disturbance.
The maximum penalty on a first-degree feticide conviction is 15 years in prison and the maximum penalty for an attempted second-degree murder conviction is 50 years, Steele said.