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Woman pleads not guilty to snatching Baby Abby

Story Highlights

NEW: Shannon Torrez, aka Shannon Beck, pleads not guilty to four felony counts
• Baby Abby at home with family and in good health
• Police say suspect suffered stillbirth on Friday, same day baby was taken
• Suspect's sister-in-law's suspicions led to baby's return
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UNION, Missouri (CNN) -- Shaking and fighting tears, Shannon Torrez pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that she slashed a young mother's throat and stole her newborn daughter.

With wrists shackled, Torrez brushed back tears and spoke just above a whisper during the brief hearing.

Torrez, 36, who also is known as Shannon Beck, is charged with four felony counts: Kidnapping of a child, assault, and two counts of using weapons during the commission of a felony. She is being held on $1 million bond.

The assault and kidnapping charges carry sentences of between 10 and 30 years to life in prison upon conviction, Franklin County Prosecutor Robert Parks said.

Torrez made her first court appearance as questions mounted over her story that she had given birth to a stillborn infant on the day week-old Abigale Lynn Woods disappeared. (Watch Shannon Torrez face the judge -- 1:03)

Sheriff Gary Toelke would not comment Wednesday on whether investigators had found any evidence that the woman had recently been pregnant or given birth.

The FBI had previously said the suspect had delivered a stillborn baby the day of the abduction.

Lured by lawn sign?

In court papers, authorities said the suspect was drawn to the home of the newborn's mother by a lawn sign that said "It's a girl!"

"We feel she was looking for a child to replace hers," the sheriff said. However, he added that there also has been some speculation that Torrez was never pregnant.

Makeup on the missing infant's forehead was the clue that broke a case that has received national publicity.

Twelve-day-old Abigale "Abby" Lynn Woods was back with her family in Lonedell, Missouri, on Thursday.

When the family found out late Tuesday that baby Abby had been found, "We were all ecstatic, even the sheriff," her grandfather, Kenny Ochsenbine, told CNN. "We're just glad she's back home."

"My heart just burst open," said her great-grandmother, Ruth Burlage. "I'm just so happy and overwhelmed, it's fantastic." (Watch baby's grandfather describe the family's relief -- 3:52)

Doctors said the baby was in very good health.

The suspect stabbed the baby's mother, 21-year-old Stephanie Ochsenbine, and abducted her week-old girl last Friday, FBI Special Agent Roland Corvington said.

Suspicious sister-in-law

Police said the break in the case came when Dorothy Torrez became suspicious about the newborn her sister-in-law was presenting as her own. (Watch investigators discuss how the baby was found -- 3:09)

The suspect called Torrez on Sunday to say she had given birth, and Torrez visited her on Monday and Tuesday, Corvington said.

While accompanying Beck to a doctor's appointment Tuesday in St. Louis, Missouri, Torrez noticed makeup on the baby's forehead, the special agent said.

Police reports circulated in the news media had indicated the kidnapped baby had a birthmark on her forehead.

While Beck was inside the doctor's office, Torrez rubbed Abigail's forehead with her cap and the makeup came off, revealing a birthmark, Corvington said.

Torrez called her own husband and Beck's husband before confronting Beck, asking her if she had attacked the infant's mother, the agent said.

Beck told Torrez she found the baby along a road, Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said.

When the pair got home, there was an argument over the child, and Beck's husband gave the baby to Torrez and told her to take the infant to police. Torrez and "a friend" turned the child over to police about 5 p.m. Tuesday, Corvington said.

Suspect surrendered

Toelke said Beck gave herself up through an intermediary. Beck matched a description given by the mother, he said. (Watch how authorities got Abby back -- 1:57)

Corvington said Beck delivered a stillborn full-term fetus on Friday, the same day Abby was abducted and the baby's mother was attacked with a knife. Beck lived several miles away from Stephanie Ochsenbine's residence, authorities said.

Beck took the baby, but left Ochsenbine's 1-year-old son Connor unharmed, police said. Ochsenbine walked about 300 yards to a neighbor's home and reported, "Someone stole my baby."

Toelke told CNN Wednesday that police didn't know much about Beck yet. They were working to verify whether that was actually her name, he said.

"She has lived in the area for a little while. I'm not sure where she's originally from," Toelke said. "We did arrest her back in 2004, but other than that we really don't know a whole lot right now. We've got quite a lot of work to do on the case yet before it's closed."

Early Wednesday, Toelke did not have details about the 2004 arrest.

The baby's mother said Wednesday it was "indescribable" to have her daughter back. "The last several days have been draining, just exhausting. But I can handle anything now," Stephanie Ochsenbine, said on NBC's "Today" show.

"Emotions are flying. Everybody's just happy that Abby was able to come home safe and be with Stephanie," Kenny Ochsenbine told CNN.

CNN's Ed Lavandera and Jonathan Freed contributed to this report.

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Shannon Torrez pleaded not guilty to assault, kidnapping and weapons offenses.



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