It was Angelikque Sutton’s wedding day and she was on her way to the Bronx Courthouse in New York. She was about to marry her boyfriend of eight years, Patrick Bradley, and start a new phase of their lives together.
Angelikque, 22, was eight and a half months pregnant and, with their first
baby coming in a matter of weeks, the couple wanted to be married before becoming parents. They’d booked a slot for a simple civil ceremony on 20 November 2015.
Angelikque, the daughter of a bishop, had a baby register on a gifting website. On it, she’d announced she was having a baby girl, due on 2 December. But she wasn’t the only one making plans to welcome a daughter. An old school friend had recently reconnected with Angelikque on social media.
Ashleigh Wade, 22, had made an effort to get in touch with her former friend to let her know she was pregnant too – and was also due to have a girl around the same time. They were both busy decorating nurseries and stocking up on baby clothes and nappies. Having something in common created a close bond between them.
Ashleigh and her boyfriend Andrew Praylow, 27, had been posting baby scan pictures on social media and chatting to neighbours about their imminent arrival. Dad-to-be Andrew said the baby was due on 15 November, and when the date came and went, he commented that she ‘wasn’t ready to come out yet lol’.
On the morning of Angelikque’s wedding, Ashleigh said she had a wedding gift for her and asked the bride-to-be to stop by on the way to the civil ceremony. But Angelikque would never make it to the courthouse where Patrick was patiently waiting.
When Angelikque arrived at Ashleigh’s home, her ‘friend’ attacked her with a paring knife. It turned out that Ashleigh wasn’t pregnant at all – she’d been lying to everyone and, with her due date having been and gone, she was about to be found out. But not if she could find a baby girl to pass off as her own.
As a terrified Angelikque fought for her life and the life of her unborn baby, Ashleigh slit her throat, cutting her larynx so she couldn’t scream for help. Angelikque was bleeding to death when Ashleigh sliced into her abdomen and removed her uterus. Cutting it open, she took the baby out and discarded the womb on the bathroom floor. Ashleigh cleaned up some of the blood and made a bottle of milk for the baby girl – who incredibly survived her savage birth.
Then Ashleigh called her boyfriend.
‘I’ve done something really bad,’ she admitted. ‘I’ve just had a baby. But I think I’ve killed someone.’
When Andrew arrived, he found his girlfriend sat cradling a baby by the blood-drenched body of her friend. A placenta and a knife were next to her on the floor.
‘The baby is mine,’ she told him.
Stunned, he scooped up the baby and called the police before waiting outside. He believed the baby was his – and that Ashleigh had given birth at the crime scene.
When police arrived, they found blood smeared over staircases and doorways leading to the body of Angelikque. There was nothing they could do to save her, and she was pronounced dead.
Ashleigh insisted the newborn girl was hers.
‘It’s my baby!’ she shouted. But she confessed she’d stabbed Angelikque ‘as many times as she could’.
Web of lies
Patrick was alerted and rushed to the hospital to find out his fiancée was dead and his baby girl, later named Jenasis, was being claimed by another woman. Amazingly, the 8lb 2oz baby was healthy with just a small knife wound on her thigh.
When questioned, Ashleigh told police that she’d got into an argument with her friend after they’d started ‘talking about the past’. She said that Angelikque had lunged at her with a knife and she’d wrestled the blade off her before stabbing her repeatedly in self-defence. Ashleigh claimed that when she realised the wounds were fatal, she’d slashed open Angelikque’s belly to ‘save the baby’.
It became clear to investigators that Ashleigh had killed Angelikque to steal her baby. After being examined, doctors determined that Ashleigh hadn’t given birth and, in fact, had not even been pregnant. Her quest for a child had been going on for years.
She’d told family she’d had a baby in 2014, but it had died shortly after being born – there was no evidence that was true. Her apartment was full of baby clothes folded into neat piles, furnished with a changing table and a crib. Nappies and milk filled the cupboards – all waiting for a baby. One she would have to steal. Her story had been so convincing that even boyfriend Andrew had fallen for it.
In 2017, Ashleigh pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and the two-week trial started. As the jurors heard the shocking accusations, they gasped as Ashleigh wept. It seemed unthinkable that someone could go to such lengths.
Despite not using mental illness as a defence, her lawyers said that Ashleigh had suffered a lifetime of depression, and although she’d lied to everyone about being pregnant, she didn’t necessarily plan to steal Angelikque’s baby, because she had no getaway plan.
‘If the point of the killing was to get to the baby, what was the end game? What was the escape plan?’ they said. ‘911 was called multiple times, and she waited outside. All of this goes to a lack of preplanning.’
Ashleigh continued to claim that she’d ‘rescued’ Jenasis, and that when she was holding her it felt like that baby could be hers.
‘Holding her felt right and I believed that that little girl was mine,’ she said.
Her defence said she’d simply lost control during an ‘extreme emotional disturbance’. She’d snapped as Angelikque reminded her of everything she had – everything Ashleigh wanted.
Brutal and calculated
But the prosecution said the attack was brutal and calculated. Ashleigh had everything she needed apart from a baby, and reconnecting with Angelikque was all part of the plan. She’d even deliberately avoided stabbing Angelikque’s abdomen because the baby was her motive and she didn’t want it harmed.
‘The defendant attacked Ms Sutton by stabbing and slashing her repeatedly in the face and neck,’ they said. ‘The defendant cut Ms Sutton’s larynx
– her voice box. Ms Sutton could not scream, could not say a word. She cut her major blood vessels. What the defendant did to her next is almost unspeakable.’
Jurors were forced to view extremely graphic evidence photos. Images of Angelikque’s bloody body, close-ups of her slashed throat. At one point, a female juror fainted and the court had to be cleared while she received medical attention.
Ashleigh’s boyfriend took the stand and said he didn’t question the pregnancy because Ashleigh’s stomach was growing and he believed he’d ‘felt the baby’. When he’d arrived at the crime scene, he believed the baby girl was his and was devastated to discover he’d been deceived.
In October, Ashleigh was found guilty of second-degree murder and kidnapping, and she sobbed uncontrollably as she was taken away. When she was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years in prison, Ashleigh continued to cry and shake, realising she may spend her whole life behind bars.
‘I’m sorry for hurting so many people,’ she said. ‘I wish I knew why. I wish I understood it and I don’t… I’m so sorry.’
Angelikque’s loved ones called her sentence ‘justice’ for the woman they said was beautiful and had the sweetest soul.
Today Jenasis is a bright, happy toddler being cared for by her dad. For now, she lives her life blissfully unaware about the horrific circumstances surrounding her birth. But one day she’ll discover she almost didn’t make it into this world, because Ashleigh so desperately wanted to take Angelikque’s place.