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Baby-Selling Charge Disputed in Murder Case

Crime: Family of 17-year-old victim says she was ecstatic about motherhood. Suspect found with baby says she bought the child.

July 27, 1997|JIM SALTER | ASSOCIATED PRESS

SALEM, Mo. — When 17-year-old Shawna Woolard found out she was pregnant, she dropped out of high school, moved in with her boyfriend and began preparing the baby's room.

The standout athlete and honor student at Cabool High School was ecstatic about motherhood, relatives said.

About the same time, Delila Clay began telling people in nearby Viburnum that she was expecting, and telling her boyfriend about visits to her obstetrician.

"She faked it for nine months," Viburnum Police Chief Allen Mathes said.

On July 2, Shawna delivered a healthy 8-pound, 11-ounce boy, Chase. Eight days later, she was found shot to death along a logging road. Police found the baby with Clay, who claimed she bought the child from Shawna.

Authorities won't comment on Clay's accusation. But Dent County prosecutor Sara Bryson took the claim seriously enough to charge Clay, 36, with trafficking in children, in addition to first-degree murder.

Police allege that Clay confessed, saying they argued after Shawna backed out of the deal. Authorities refused to allow her to be interviewed.

Shawna's relatives say the accusations that Shawna sold her baby couldn't be further from the truth.

"That's as farfetched a story as you'll ever hear," said her father, Ron Woolard.

"I know Shawna wouldn't do something like that," said her mother, Sandra Richardson, choking back tears.

Shawna grew up in Cabool, a town of 2,000 residents in southeastern Missouri. She was quiet, active in sports, a cheerleader, and had about a B average, said her middle school principal, Bob Fields.

Shawna's sister, Mandy Roberts, 21, pulled out three huge scrapbooks dedicated to Shawna--books stuffed with track ribbons, honor roll certificates and newspaper clippings.

Shawna spent much of her free time with kids, relatives said, baby-sitting and volunteering each Halloween to escort trick-or-treaters on their rounds.

"Anybody that knew her knew she wouldn't sell her baby," Ron Woolard said.

Shawna's baby was delivered by caesarean section on July 2 at Salem Hospital.

On July 6, her boyfriend, Tim Shipp, left for work at a car dealership at 8 a.m., but called around noon to see how Shawna felt. There was no answer. About 2:30 p.m., there was still no answer, so he asked his brother to go check on her.

The front door was open, the TV was on and Shawna was gone. Her dog, Boo, had been locked inside the hot bedroom.

"She would never do that--she treated that dog like a baby," Richardson said.

Police were led to Clay, and Shawna's baby, after a neighbor became suspicious about Clay's supposed pregnancy and called police.

"She [Clay] told this friend she was going to the hospital to have a baby," Roberts said. "Five hours later she came back. Anybody knows you don't have a baby and come home five hours later looking like nothing happened."

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