Last Modified: Monday, October 29, 2012 12:40 PM
WALKER (AP) — Authorities say the fetus cut from a woman's womb during an attack on the mother this week was cremated accidentally prior to a scheduled autopsy.
Livingston Parish District Attorney Scott Perrilloux told The Advocate that voids the possibility of upgrading the feticide count to one of murder. Previously, Perrilloux had said that if evidence showed that the fetus had begun to breathe before it was killed, that the feticide count might be upgraded to murder.
However, Perrilloux said he believes the current counts against the suspect in the case can still be prosecuted.
Jeffery Reynolds, 31, of Walker, was booked Tuesday on counts of first-degree feticide and the attempted second-degree murder of his 28-year-old wife, who remained in critical but stable condition Friday.
Authorities allege Reynolds cut open his wife's abdomen and pulled the fetus from her womb in their home on Milton Road.
"The child was found on scene deceased with a large laceration on top of the child's skull," according to a detective's affidavit attached to the warrant for the arrest of Reynolds on the first-degree feticide count.
Dr. Ron Coe, the Livingston Parish coroner, said Friday afternoon that a funeral home employee accidentally cremated the fetus.
"Livingston Parish government does not maintain a morgue" and has always had to rely on a private funeral home, Coe said.
"Without our knowledge or authorization, a funeral home employee mistakenly removed and cremated the Reynolds fetus prior to autopsy," the coroner said.
State police and the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office are "investigating the details of the cremation," and the district attorney was notified, he said.
The maximum penalty on a first-degree feticide conviction is 15 years in prison and the maximum penalty for an attempted second-degree murder conviction is 50 years.