Kathaleena Draper

A Mother's Decision to Keep Her Baby Ends in Tragedy

Kathaleena Draper was 17 when her aunt, Erin Kuhn, brutally killed her and cut her baby from her womb.

Erin Kuhn, 31, was divorced and working as a hospital emergency room technician in Sacramento. She had one son, but the child lived with his father. Kuhn wanted to have more children, but was unable to after having a hysterectomy because of cancer.

She then tried to adopt a child, but on three occasions was unsuccessful.

However, in March 2000, it seemed as if her dreams to have another child were going to come true.
Kuhn's 17-year-old niece, Kathaleena Draper, was unmarried and pregnant. Draper, who was considered a troubled teen, did not feel she could adequately care for a baby. The two agreed that Kuhn would adopt her child.

Kathaleena moved from Las Vegas to Sacramento and moved in with her aunt. Kuhn spent several weeks caring for her niece and preparing for the new baby. She purchased a crib, baby clothing and other items she would need. The two also had adoption papers drawn up through a lawyer.

Second Thoughts

As her pregnancy progressed Kathaleena began having second thoughts about giving up her baby. She spoke to a friend in confidence about her feelings of wanting to keep the baby, but said she was afraid to tell Kuhn. By June she had made her decision and told Kuhn she wanted to keep her baby.

Kuhn decided to drive Kathaleena back to Las Vegas, but in the days prior to them leaving, the two argued bitterly about the young mother's decision to keep her child.

On the Thursday night before they were to leave, Kathaleena showed up at a friend's house. She told her friend that she had been kicked out of her aunt's house and needed a place to stay.

That same evening Kuhn called the police and reported that her niece broke into her home, but that she was not going to press charges.

She was Kathaleena's legal guardian and wanted the teen brought back home. The police found Kathaleena and returned her to her aunt.

The following day Kuhn and Kathaleena left for Las Vegas.

The Murders

On the way to Las Vegas they stopped in a small town in Fernley and checked into the Lazy N Motel. According to police reports, Kuhn went to a local store and bought an 8-inch serrated knife, diapers, baby formula and baby clothing.

That night, after Kathaleena went to bed, Kuhn attacked her, smothering her with a pillow. She then carved through Kathaleena's stomach and cut out her baby. Afterwards she saw Kathaleena was still breathing, so she asphyxiated her by shoving a Latex glove down her throat.

The infant boy was unable to breathe on his own and despite Kuhn's efforts to save his life he died within an hour from the time he was removed from his mother's womb.

Kuhn placed the infant's body in a garbage bag and wrapped Kathaleena's body in a shower curtain and put both bodies in her car. She headed back to Sacramento, dumping the body of the infant on the side of the highway just outside of Fernly along with the knife and baby supplies she had purchased earlier in the day. She then dumped Kathaleena's body along the side of the road right outside of Sacramento.

A necklace found on Kathaleena's body led police to Kuhn. She gave three different accounts of what happened to Kathaleena before finally confessing to her crimes. To avoid the death penalty Kuhn pleaded guilty to one first-degree murder charge and one second-degree murder charge. She received a life sentence without the possibility of parole.