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Slain Pregnant Woman's 3 Children Found Dead

Bodies are uncovered in Illinois hours after a family friend is charged in their mother's killing.

September 24, 2006|From the Associated Press

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — Three young children were found dead Saturday, hours after a woman was charged with killing their pregnant mother and her fetus in a grisly attack in which authorities believe her womb was cut open after she was knocked unconscious.

The bodies of two boys, 7 and 2, and their 1-year-old sister were found together in an apartment in the East St. Louis public housing complex where their mother lived, Illinois State Police Capt. Craig Koehler said.

The children were last seen Monday with family friend Tiffany Hall, 24, now charged with first-degree murder in the death of their mother, who is believed to have been slain days before her children disappeared. Hall is also charged with intentional homicide of an unborn child, prosecutor Robert Haida said.

Koehler declined to say whether Hall was suspected in the children's deaths. The cause of their deaths had not been determined and autopsies would be performed today, he said.

The bodies of DeMond Tunstall, 7, Ivan Tunstall-Collins, 2, and Jinela Tunstall, 1, were found in an apartment at the John DeShields public housing complex. Authorities said a lead directed them to check the apartment, which had not been searched previously. They declined to release more information.

"Anytime you have three deceased children, it's a very emotional time," Koehler said late Saturday as he fought back tears. "All these investigators have worked tirelessly with one outcome in mind -- to find these children alive."

The body of their mother, Jimella Tunstall, 23, was found Thursday in a weedy East St. Louis lot.

An autopsy showed Tunstall, who was seven months' pregnant, bled to death after sustaining an abdominal wound caused by a sharp object, believed to be scissors, said Ace Hart, a deputy St. Clair County coroner. He called the slaying "very graphic and very brutal."

Relatives say Tunstall grew up with Hall and had let her baby-sit her children.

Family members told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Tunstall had lost custody of her children at one point and was trying to get her life back on track.

Officials suspect Tunstall was slain on or about Sept. 15, Haida said. The same day, Hall summoned police to a park, saying she had given birth to a stillborn child, Hart said.

Hall and the fetus were taken to a hospital, where she would not let doctors examine her and offered conflicting reasons for why she went into labor.

Hall has two children. Koehler said they were "safe and sound."

The fetus was buried Thursday as Taylor Horn after a funeral arranged by L. King Funeral Chapel, whose president said Hall called minutes after the service was to start, asking if she could reschedule for a different day so more relatives could attend. At the time, Levi King said, only two relatives were there.

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