Kennewick Woman Who Cut Fetus Out of Expectant Mother Deemed Sane

Phiengchai Synhavong wanted a baby. What she did to get one might turn your stomach.
Phiengchai Synhavong may not be crazy. But the crime she's accused of committing certainly is.

In June of 2008, the 23-year-old Laotian woman from Kennewick enticed an acquaintance into the backseat of her SUV. For some reason, Synhavong had started telling family and friends she was pregnant. Which she was not.

The woman she lured into her car, however, 27-year-old Araceli Camacho Gomez, very much was with child. And had been for nine months.

Gomez was wife to a migrant field worker and mother to two kids. Cops say she agreed to get in the vehicle because Syhavong had promised her baby clothes. What happened next was unthinkable.

Syhavong got into the backseat, overpowered Gomez and then bound her hands and feet with yarn. To keep her quiet, she also stuck a gag in Gomez's mouth.

Then, brandishing a box-cutter, Syhavong cut open Gomez's stomach and removed the nine-month-old fetus from her womb.

After dumping Gomez's body in a park, Syhavong called 911 and told police she'd just had a baby and thought it might be dead. When a fire captain arrived on scene, he found the little boy lying in a backseat covered in blood.

Remarkably, the child, named Salvador, survived. But because of the extreme nature of his premature birth, doctors say he'll probably end up brain-damaged.

After running some routine tests that proved Syhavong had not just given birth, police arrested Syhavong. When they searched her purse they found bloody mechanic's gloves, the box cutter and a baby bottle.

Despite her claims, a psychologist at Eastern State says Syhavong is "clear in thought and speech." Explaining further that, when doctors were watching, she played the part of a loon: claiming the police had kidnapped her and carrying around a folded blanket that she called her son.

When she thought she wasn't being watched, however, they say they caught Syhavong behaving normally: joking with other patients, playing cards and not acting like someone with a debilitating mental illness.

Yesterday a judge ruled her competent to stand trial. Should she be convicted of first-degree murder, Syhavong will be eligible for the death penalty.

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