Fresno woman convicted in kidnapping and murdering pregnant mother

The Associated Press

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) – A woman who claimed to have made a deal to buy an expectant mother’s baby was convicted Thursday of kidnapping and murdering the pregnant woman and her unborn baby.

Josefina Sonia Saldana was accused of kidnapping Margarita Flores to steal her baby, murdering the woman and scattering her dismembered body in Southern California and Mexico in September 1998.

Saldana, 43, showed no reaction as the Fresno Superior Court jury returned its verdict after seven days of deliberations. Saldana faces a mandatory life sentence next month.

Flores, 40, a mother of five, was more than eight months pregnant when she was last seen alive leaving her home Sept. 14, 1998 with a woman posing as a charity worker. Flores was allegedly lured from her home with the promise of free baby furniture and diapers.

Saldana, a Spanish language interpreter, was arrested a few days later when police learned she had brought a dead fetus to a hospital. She claimed the baby was hers, but tests revealed she had not been pregnant.

Saldana testified that Flores had agreed to sell her baby. She said Flores induced her own labor, had a stillbirth and died after they parted.

The defense said a farmworker who lived in a shack on Saldana’s property may have killed Flores and disposed of her body.

Serafin Rodarte first reported seeing a body on Saldana’s property. By the time police arrived, the body had vanished.

Rodarte was later found hanging in an apparent suicide. He left a note declaring his innocence.

Fresno County prosecutor Blake Gunderson called the defense ”sheer and utter nonsense.”

The defense plans to appeal the verdict.

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