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Associated Press

Missouri woman gets 8 years in prison for plot to steal baby

By The Associated Press, USA, Wed Aug 27, 2008

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - A 20-year-old woman who kidnapped a pregnant teenager she met online in a foiled plot steal her unborn baby has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Lauren Gash, of Odessa, pleaded guilty last month to kidnapping, assault and felonious restraint in the July 2007 attack on Amanda Howard, then 18, inside a Blue Springs motel room. Gash was sentenced Tuesday to eight years each on the first two counts and seven years on the third. The sentences will run concurrently.

Howard, now Amanda Culley, was pregnant, single and unemployed when two women she met on the Internet lured her from her home with promises that they would drive her to get baby clothes.

Culley got into the car with Gash and co-defendant Alisa D. Betts, of Atchison, Kan., but soon realized something was wrong, police have said.

The pair sprayed Culley with pepper spray and drove her to a motel room where Gash and Betts had set out scissors, a sheet of plastic and a multipurpose fishing tool, along with diapers, a blanket and a fake birth certificate.

"The motel room basically was set up for surgery to take place," assistant Jackson County prosecutor Traci Stansell said Tuesday at Gash's sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors say Betts got cold feet and called police. The officers who came to the motel thought they were checking on a distressed pregnant woman and became suspicious when they saw the duct tape around Culley's neck and in her hair.

Before the attack, Gash had registered at Babies "R" Us, held a baby shower and wore maternity clothes, prosecutors said. She also told relatives that she had given birth to a boy.

"I just want to say I'm sorry," Gash told Culley during the sentencing hearing. "I wish there was a way to make it up to you."

Culley, now 19, said she thought she was going to die when Gash stuffed a wash cloth in her mouth and tried to tie her mouth shut with duct tape. She gave birth to a son two days after the attack.

Culley said she was relieved by Gash's sentence.

Betts remains charged with kidnapping, assault and felonious assault. Her trial is scheduled to begin in October.

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With information from: The Kansas City Star