Chicago, IL – Three people have been arrested in connection with the horrific murder of a 19-year-old mother who was nine months pregnant when she disappeared in April.
The body of Marlen Ochoa-Lopez was found in a trash can outside her accused killers’ home on Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reported.
She was strangled to death just before her baby son was cut from her womb, police said.
The infant, Yadiel Yovany Lopez, is currently hospitalized on life support, but is “brain-dead,” his family said on Thursday.
Ochoa-Lopez disappeared on April 23, after she left Latino Youth High School to meet up with a woman she had met in a Facebook group for mothers.
Ochoa-Lopez had previously gotten baby items from 46-year-old Clarisa Figueroa, so when Clarisa told her in the message group that she had clothing and a double stroller available, Ochoa-Lopez arranged to go to her West 77th Place home.
But once she went inside, the expectant mother was allegedly attacked and strangled to death by Clarisa and her daughter, 24-year-old Desiree Figueroa, police said.
“We believe that she was murdered, and we believe that the baby was forcibly removed following that murder,” Chicago Police Department (CPD) spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said, according to KSWB.
Desiree allegedly confessed to having helped her mother murder Ochoa-Lopez, who is also the mother of a three-year-old boy, the Chicago Tribune reported.
After killing the young mother, Claris and Desiree allegedly cut the baby boy from her womb.
At approximately 6 p.m., the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) received a report that a woman had just given birth to a baby at the Figueroa’s home.
"The caller gave birth 10 minutes ago,” the 911 dispatcher told the CFS, according to WLS. "Forty-six years of age. The baby isn't breathing. The baby is pale and blue. They are doing CPR."
“The baby was in obvious distress,” and was rushed to a local hospital, CFD spokesperson Larry Langford said, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Paramedics at the scene asked Clarisa, who claimed to have given birth to the baby, if she was experiencing any bleeding, dizziness, or cramps.
She said she wasn’t, and paramedics said they had no reason to believe anything suspicious had occurred.
Yadiel was placed in intensive care, where he remained on Thursday. Ochoa-Lopez’s family said he does not have any brain function due to experiencing an apparent lack of oxygen after his mother’s murder.
In the days following the baby’s hospitalization, Clarisa’s family started a GoFundMe page seeking $9,000 for the child they claimed was theirs.
They even included photographs of a baby attached to monitors and a breathing tube.
GoFundMe has since removed the page, and is refunding all donations.
Police first became aware of the connection between Ochoa-Lopez and Clarisa on May 7, when one of her friends told police about the Facebook group.
Investigators then saw the communication between the missing woman and Clarisa.
“Once they got that break…then things started going quickly,” CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson said of the investigation. “There was nothing to point us in that direction in the beginning.”
Police soon located Ochoa-Lopez’s abandoned Honda Civic parked near the Figueroa’s home.
When they spoke with Desiree, she told them that her mother, Clarisa, had just given birth to a little boy.
But when police went to the hospital to meet with Clarisa, she said Ochoa-Lopez never showed up at their house on April 23.
Investigators subsequently confirmed that the baby belonged to Ochoa-Lopez by matching his DNA to DNA extracted from her hairbrush and toothbrush, police said.
Police located Ochoa-Lopez’s body and the coaxial cable the women used to strangle her to death in a garbage can in the Figueroa’s backyard.
They also found blood, bleach, and cleaning solutions inside the residence, as well as remnants of burned clothing.
Clarisa and Desiree have both been charged with a single count of aggravated battery of a child causing permanent disability and first-degree murder.
Clarisa’s boyfriend, 40-year-old Piotr Bobak, was arrested for concealment of a homicide.
Superintendent Johnson said that the Figueroas apparently planned to raise the little boy as their own.
Clarisa’s adult son died of natural causes within the past several years, police said.
An anonymous woman told WLS that one of the women used to babysit her infant, but that she began acting strangely.
"She told me how she was getting really attached to the baby, how she couldn't wait to be a mom again," the woman recalled. "She said that she needed money because she was having a new baby. She told me she was due in May."
According to Cook County court records, Clarisa was charged with battery in 1998 and marijuana possession in 2008, The Chicago Tribune reported.
Both cases were ultimately dropped.
Bobak was previously sentenced to prison for aggravated battery of a peace officer, but served only three years.
He was paroled in 2018.
In February, the court issued an arrest warrant for misdemeanor theft, after Bobak allegedly stole someone else’s methadone.
Desiree was convicted of misdemeanor theft in January, and was sentenced to community service and four months of supervision.
She was charged with misdemeanor assault in 2013, but the charge was ultimately dismissed.
Although some have criticized police and hospital personnel for not realizing the connection between Ochoa-Lopez and the Figueroas sooner, Commissioner Johnson said that they initially had no way of knowing what had occurred.
“Remember, this is real life,” he said. “It doesn’t work like that. It takes time.”
“All of us up here are parents, brothers, sisters, sons or daughters, so it doesn’t escape us the emotional drain that something like this takes on people,” the superintendent continued. “I can’t even…pretend to imagine what that family is going through right now. They should be celebrating the birth of a young baby. Instead…they’re mourning the loss of the mother and possibly that young child.”
Ochoa-Lopez's family gathered at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Friday to demand justice.
"Today is a sad day," family spokesperson Julie Contreras, said according to WLS. "Today is a day of anguish that this family is living through a nightmare, a horror film. Today there is only one message that the family has, and that is justice for Marlen."
The young mother's husband Yovani Lopez, begged prosecutors to keep his wife's accused killers in jail.
"We are asking the Cook County States Attorney to please not allow these monsters to go free," Lopez said. "They murdered my wife and my infant son is in intensive care after being ripped out from his mother's body."