Philadelphia Man Caught Trying To Move Corpse Convicted Of Killing Pregnant Girlfriend

Published: Oct. 17, 2006 at 6:43 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 24, 2006 at 12:39 PM EDT
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(PHILADELPHIA) -- A man caught trying to move the corpse of his pregnant girlfriend from the lot where he had dumped her body was convicted Tuesday of strangling the 24-year-old woman.

In a nonjury trial, Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina found Stephen Poaches, 27, guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of LaToyia Figueroa and her fetus.

Figueroa was five-months pregnant and had a 7-year-old daughter when she disappeared in 2005. Her case drew national attention after a blogger asked national news organizations why the disappearances of a white woman had drawn a lot of attention while that of Figueroa -- who was black and Hispanic -- had not.

She had been missing for more than a month when a police detective acting on a tip followed Poaches to the lot in August 2005 and found her body.

Poaches' defense attorney, Michael Coard, argued at trial that his client should be convicted only of voluntary manslaughter, not murder. Coard has said Poaches acted out of "sudden and intense passion" and not "malice, ill will, or a hardness of heart."

In a statement to police, Poaches allegedly said he started choking Figueroa after she struck him in the face and shoulder during an argument in his West Philadelphia apartment on July 18, 2005. He had accompanied his girlfriend to a medical checkup hours before.

"I kind of freaked out when she stopped hitting," he said, according to police. "She was dead. That was it."

Poaches told detectives that he tried to move her body from the lot in Chester, about 10 miles outside Philadelphia, because he was afraid police would find the remains.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)