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Pregnant woman who ate rat poison charged with murder

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - An Indianapolis woman who tried to commit suicide by eating rat poison near the end of her pregnancy was charged with murder in the death of her baby, officials said on Wednesday.

Bei Bei Shuai, 34, was arrested Monday and appeared in court Wednesday on charges of knowingly killing a viable fetus and attempted feticide, prosecutors said. The court entered an automatic plea of not guilty for Shuai, who is in custody.

Shuai consumed rat poison while 33 weeks pregnant, prosecutors said. On December 23, she was taken to a hospital where she admitted to taking rat poison in an attempt to kill herself after her boyfriend left her, according to a police statement.

Shuai's baby girl, Angel Shuai, was born alive on December 31. On January 3, the baby died after being taken off life support. An autopsy determined that the cause of death was her mother's ingestion of the poison, police said.

Shuai, is the co-owner of a small Indianapolis restaurant, is from China and has no family members in the United States, according to her lawyer, Linda Pence. Pence called the prosecution "mean-spirited" and "horrible" and wants to have the charges dismissed.

"This young woman is truly one of the kindest, most gentle people I've ever met," said Pence. Pence said Shuai's boyfriend had promised to marry her and help raise the child, and then dumped her, leaving her crying on her knees in a parking lot. Shuai was near a hardware store, so she bought the poison to kill herself.

Pence said Shuai had been happy about the baby, and had bought baby clothes. The baby died in her arms after she had rocked it "for hours and hours," Pence said.

Pence said there is a common law immunity for pregnant women who attempt to harm themselves -- or else prosecutors could charge any woman who drank or took drugs. Pence said the law against killing fetuses is meant to target third parties -- as in the case of a robber who shoots a pregnant woman.

(Writing by Mary Wisniewski, Editing by Greg McCune)