In November 2016, Texas woman Yesenia Sesmas found herself facing a terrible crossroad of her own making.
For months, she’d fed lies to her family and friends, pretending to be pregnant. She prepared her home, decorated a nursery, hosted a baby shower, accepted mounds of gifts and even shared photos of her supposed newborn. The truth was, she’d miscarried long before. And the photos of the baby girl were not hers.
She came up with a twisted reasoning: either she had to tell her loved ones and expose herself as a fraud, or she had to come home with a baby, somehow. She chose the latter.
And so, in an attempt to maintain her illusion, Sesmas concocted a sickening plan that would involve murdering a young mother and kidnapping her baby daughter.
She knew her friend and former co-worker, 27-year-old Laura Abarca, had recently given birth. The baby photos Sesmas had been claiming as her own were, in fact, Abarca’s.
Sesmas decided to strike. On November 17, she drove from her home in Dallas to Abarca’s apartment in Wichita, Kansas, five hours away.
According to Associated Press, Abarca was home alone with her six-day-old baby girl, Sophia Gonzales. Armed with a loaded gun, Sesmas entered and killed the new mother with a single shot to the forehead.
Sophia was then bundled into diaper bag, taken to Sesmas’ waiting truck and driven back to Texas strapped in a car seat.
The Wichita Eagle reports Sophia’s father came home from work later that day to discover the tragic scene: his fiancee was dead, and his baby girl was nowhere to be found.
Police were called and an intensive search was sparked to find the missing newborn. Soon enough, the whole nation was talking about ‘baby Sophia’.
It took less 48 hours for detectives to set their sights on Sesmas. She became a key suspect after a text message exchange was found between she and Abarca the day before the murder.
Police raided Sesmas’ home and found Sophia, uninjured.
This week, Sesmas was found guilty of first-degree premeditated and intentional murder, kidnapping and interference with parental custody.
Much of the trial centred on her intentions: Did she really mean to kill her friend, or – as Sesmas argued – was she just trying to frighten her into doing what she wanted, unaware the gun was loaded? She also claimed Abarca had last-minute pulled out of an agreement to give her the baby.
In the end, as reported by the Wichita Eagle, the jury sided with prosecutors, and took just three hours to do so.
“When she walked into that apartment on November 17, 2016, there were only two ways for this to end,” said District Attorney Marc Bennett said in court.
Sesmas then went to sleep at home in Texas that night thinking “she would wake up and raise that baby and her life would begin”, Bennett said.
Today, Sophia is being raised by her father as a single dad with the help of his family. Her uncle told the local press she is a “happy” girl and “growing as fast as weeds”.
Abarca’s loved ones have remembered her as “a vibrant, beautiful woman”.
“She was a loving mother to her daughter Sophia, a devoted girlfriend, also a caring sister, daughter and aunt, simply a friend to us all,” said a GoFundMe page.
Sesmas is facing life in prison. She will be sentenced on July 13.