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Thursday October 5, 2000

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Baby OK after removal from slain mom

By The Associated Press

RAVENNA, Ohio - A baby was in good condition yesterday after he was removed from his slain mother's womb by another woman, who passed the child off as her own until committing suicide as police closed in.

The infant was in the temporary custody of the Portage County Department of Human Services. DNA tests were conducted to verify paternity.

The case was uncovered Tuesday when police arrived at Michelle Bica's home to question her about the week-old disappearance of Theresa Andrews, who lived four blocks away. Before police could reach her, Bica shot herself.

The 8-pound, 6-ounce baby boy was found in her home. The body of Mrs. Andrews, 23, was found buried in Bica's dirt-floor garage.

Portage County Coroner Roger Marcial said Andrews was shot once in the back and likely died instantly. The .22-caliber bullet matched ammunition in the gun Bica used to kill herself.

Marcial said the straight cut of the crude Caesarean section on Mrs. Andrews led him to conclude that the baby was removed after the shooting. "I just figure if the cutting was done before she died, there would have been a lot of struggling," he said.

Mrs. Andrews' due date was yesterday.

The baby was listed in good condition yesterday at Robinson Memorial Hospital.

Andrews' husband, Jon, was awaiting DNA tests to confirm that the healthy infant is his son. The results of those tests could come yesterday, said Andrews' attorney, Nicholas Phillips.

"He's a long way from facing reality," Phillips said of his client. "It's such a difficult, unique situation where you're enjoying your newborn son and mourning the loss of your wife."

Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said the baby probably was delivered Sept. 27, the day Mrs. Andrews disappeared in Ravenna, a city of about 12,000, some 30 miles southeast of Cleveland.

Marcial said traces of blood found in the Bica house indicate Andrews was shot in the first-floor laundry room there.

On the day she disappeared, Mrs. Andrews had paged her husband at work and said a woman had called inquiring about a 1999 Jeep Wrangler they were trying to sell.

Andrews, a sheet-metal worker, told police that when he got home at 4:30 p.m., the house was open, the vehicle gone and his wife missing. Police found the vehicle about a block away and later found the Jeep keys in Bica's purse.

There was no indication whether the women had known each other. A series of cellular phone calls to the Andrews' house led police to Bica.

On Monday, officers questioned Bica about the Sept. 27 calls. When police returned that night, they heard a gunshot and found her body in an upstairs bedroom.

Her husband, Thomas Bica, 41, a county corrections officer, was questioned and released. He met his wife in 1994 while she served a jail sentence for receiving stolen property, Vigluicci said.

Bica, who had led neighbors to believe she had just had a baby, had not been pregnant recently, Marcial said.

It was possible Bica could have convinced others she was pregnant because she was obese, he added.