THE BRONX — The woman who stabbed her friend to death before cutting the victim's baby from her womb was found guilty of murder and kidnapping Thursday.
Ashleigh Wade, 24, who cried and shook in the courtroom as the verdict was read, faces life in prison for the killing of Angelikque Sutton nearly two years ago. The jury of five men and seven women, which deliberated for just over five hours, found her guilty of the top charges of second-degree murder and kidnapping.
The trial, which lasted nearly two weeks, largely came down to whether the jury believed Wade killed Sutton intentionally in order to kidnap her baby or whether she snapped in the throes of an argument and cut out her baby as an afterthought.
The defense, which described Wade as extremely emotionally disturbed, argued she should not be found guilty of kidnapping because she actually believed the baby to be her own.
Wade was accused of killing Sutton in Wade's Bronx apartment on Nov. 20, 2015, after the two former acquaintances had recently reconnected on Facebook and bonded over their pregnancies, according to prosecutors.
Sutton, the daughter of a bishop, was going to be married at the courthouse later that day but stopped by Wade's apartment to pick up a gift, according to Assistant District Attorney Meredith Holtzman.
Holtzman argued that Wade, who knew she was not actually pregnant, lured Sutton to her home, stabbing and slashing her in the face and neck and cutting her larynx so that she could not scream. Sutton, who was left with 50 wounds, fought back but bled to death.
During the first part of the attack, all of Sutton's injuries were from the neck up, Holtzman said. Then Wade took a paring knife to Sutton's abdomen and cut out Sutton's uterus, removed the baby and discarded the organ, the prosecutor said.
Once Wade had the baby, named Jenasis, she made a bottle of formula for the newborn, wrapped her up, and told her boyfriend she had just given birth but that she'd also done something terrible.
In the aftermath of the murder, Wade gave a written statement to detectives saying she had intended to rescue the baby because she had lost her own in what turned out to be an imaginary pregnancy.
"I sat there thinking about my child that died and thought that I couldn't have any more children die so I rescued the baby," she wrote.
Wade added that "holding her felt right and I believed that the little girl was mine."
She later said parts of the statement were coerced, but at trial insisted that she really did believe the baby was her own.
“When I had the baby I remembered it to be mine," she testified.
Wade, who also testified about her rough and abusive upbringing, had several imagined pregnancies before the one that brought her into contact with Sutton.
Jenasis is now a healthy toddler.
The victim's mother, Deborah Sutton, wiped tears as the verdict was read but left the courthouse beaming.
“Justice prevailed, the truth was revealed, and my daughter was avenged with victory,” she said. The victim's father, William Sutton, called his daughter a “beautiful girl.”
One of the jurord, Maggie Santiago, 64, said the case is "going to stay with us for a while" and that she felt "horror" when looking at the gruesome images shown throughout the trial.
"It’s unfortunate because it’s no winners here, really. This child has to live with this," she said. "You have this child that has to go through this every year on her birthday, and it's a horrible thing for her birthday."
Amy Attias, Wade's defense attorney, offered few words following the verdict.
"She's sobbing and she's sorry," she said of Wade.
She will be sentenced on October 20.