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Woman expected to be charged with death of fetus

By Alex Katz
Globe Correspondent / July 12, 2010

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A Wellesley woman is expected to be charged with manslaughter today in the death of a pregnant woman’s fetus after allegedly beating the woman in a Dorchester nail salon in April, according to a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.

On Friday, a grand jury returned indictments charging Ayanna Woodhouse, 25, with manslaughter and aggravated assault and battery in the April 10 incident at Tulip Nail salon. Woodhouse is expected to be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court, said a statement from Jake Wark, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.

Woodhouse and the 26-year-old woman, whose name was not released, knew each other through the unborn baby’s father, who is Woodhouse’s cousin, according to the statement.

Prosecutors allege that the two encountered each other at the salon by chance and began to argue. Wark said in a phone interview that the dispute was over a prior incident, but he could not provide details.

Prosecutors say Woodhouse punched the woman in the face and continued to beat and kick her as she tried to defend herself while lying on the ground.

The woman was later taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where doctors delivered a girl in an emergency caesarean section. The baby did not survive.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined the cause of death to be trauma-induced placental abruption, which is a detachment of the placenta from the uterus.

This detachment causes an interruption in blood supply from the mother to the baby, said Dr. Steven Chin, attending neonatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The case raises the long-debated question of when a fetus becomes viable.

According to the district attorney’s office, a homicide charge may be brought in the death of a fetus if it was medically viable at the time of the trauma that ended its life.

Medical experts who testified to the grand jury determined that at 6 months old, the fetus was medically viable.

Neither Woodhouse nor her public defender, John Hayes, could be reached for comment.

Alex Katz can be reached at akatz@globe.com.

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