Holding his child in his arms, the Chicago father whose pregnant wife was murdered before the infant was cut from her womb was able for the first time to look into his baby boy’s eyes on Sunday night.
“That’s his baby and they finally got to meet each other,” says Emma Lozano, a spokesman for the families of Yovany Lopez and Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, whose body was discovered May 15, three weeks after she’d gone missing just ahead of her due date.
Authorities charged mother and daughter Clarisa Figueroa, 46, and Desiree Figueroa, 24, both with first-degree murder and aggravated battery of a child under 13 in the attack on Ochoa-Lopez, who also went by the last name Ochoa-Uriostegui.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speculated the suspects wanted to “raise the child as their own” after Clarisa Figueroa allegedly faked a pregnancy, then called 911 on April 23 — the day the victim was last seen — to claim she’d just given birth to a boy who was struggling to breathe.
Due to that lack of oxygen, the child has continued to struggle and remains on life support in grave condition at a hospital, according to Lozano, a pastor with Lincoln United Methodist Church in Chicago.
“There has been another family that has basically been pretending that they were his parents and grandparents,” she says. With the revelation of the murder and the charges against the accused, Ochoa-Lopez’s husband rushed in to oversee his child’s care belatedly while also dealing with the tragedy of his wife’s killing.
“The baby does have some brain activity, and he has recently — I think it was not last night but the night before, when his dad and his little brother was with him — he started to open his eyes,” says Lozano.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
“Right now he can’t breathe on his own and can’t swallow, and those functions are extremely important and there hasn’t been any change since he came in,” Lozano tells PEOPLE
“Those conversations of whether he can be taken off of life support will be had with [husband] Yovany and the family in the future, but right now they’re just being introduced to their baby,” she says.
Cook County State’s Attorney James Murphy alleged in court Friday that Clarisa and Desiree Figueroa had planned the murder for weeks and carried it out in a “cold, calculated and premeditated manner,” reports WTTW. A third person, Desiree’s boyfriend Piotr Bobak, 40, also is charged with one felony count of concealment of a homicide.
Police allege that Clarisa Figueroa lured the nine-months-pregnant victim to her home with the promise of baby items after the two had connected on a Facebook group for new and expecting mothers.
As Ochoa-Lopez looked through a photo album of Clarisa Figueroa’s children on April 23, prosecutors say Clarisa Figueroa snuck up behind her and strangled her with a coaxial cable.
None of the accused, who are due back in court June 3, have entered a plea, and attorneys who might speak on their behalf were not immediately identified. All three remain jailed without bond, according to WTTW.
Authorities allege that after recently losing her adult son to natural causes, Clarisa Figueroa was eager to raise another child, despite having had her fallopian tubes tied. In feigning a pregnancy she told family members that she was expecting and posted what she claimed were her ultrasound photos online.
After connecting with the 19-year-old Ochoa-Lopez and having her visit her home on April 1, Clarisa Figueroa told her daughter that same day that she needed help to kill a pregnant woman and take her baby, Murphy alleged in court, reports WTTW.
It was Clarisa Figueroa herself who, after strangling the victim, then cut into Ochoa-Lopez with a knife to remove the baby, according to the prosecutor.
The child’s family has created a GoFundMe page seeking donations to help for care of the boy his parents had named Yadiel. The couple has a second son, Joshua, age 3. Ochoa-Lopez was due to give birth on May 5.
“With all my heart I keep asking for your help,” his father wrote. “Pray as my son Yovanny Jardiel recovers.
“It’s been extremely difficult for him to cope,” says Lozano. “Once he was able to meet his child and hear the prognosis, which none of that shows that his child has a future with any type of quality of life, I think all of these things have been overwhelming to him.”
“People have joined them in their pain, but also just being there for them, and prayers have been very helpful,” she says.