CONROE, Texas (AP) — A nurse who had suffered a miscarriage was desperate to find a child, so she went exactly where she knew she could find one: the suburban Houston clinic where she had taken her three children for checkups, authorities say.
But when Verna McClain went to the clinic this week, her choice of which child — and mother — to target appeared to have been made at random.
“There is nothing to indicate this was anything beyond planning further than” going to the clinic, Capt. Bruce Zenor of the Montgomery County sheriff’s office said.
McClain saw her chance when 28-year-old Kala Golden and her 3-day-old son, Keegan Schuchardt, left the clinic Tuesday afternoon after his first ever checkup. McClain is accused of shooting Golden multiple times in the clinic’s parking lot and speeding away with the dying mother’s tiny son.
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Keegan was found unharmed hours later with McClain’s sister who told authorities that McClain was planning to adopt the boy. Keegan is back with family members. Golden died at a hospital.
McClain was jailed without bail and faces a capital murder charge that carries a potential death sentence. The 30-year-old mother of three, who listed a Houston address, was set to make a court appearance Thursday before a judge in Conroe.
Montgomery County Sheriff’s Detective John Schmitt said McClain, who authorities say has admitted shooting Golden and stealing the baby, does “appear remorseful for what happened.”
McClain’s estranged husband said he was shocked at the events of recent days.
“I can’t believe she shot someone. That’s not Vera,” Theo McClain, of San Diego, told The Associated Press. A relative in Houston had been looking after the couple’s three children since McClain’s arrest.
Authorities say McClain had parked next to Golden at Northwoods Pediatric Center in Spring, about 20 miles north of Houston. As Golden was placing Keegan into her pickup truck, McClain shot her, snatched the child from the truck and sped off. The dying woman leaned into the vehicle and tried to take the boy back, screaming: “My baby!”
Later Tuesday, two detectives spotted a vehicle outside a nearby apartment complex that matched witnesses’ descriptions of the one the shooter sped off in, said Montgomery County Sheriff Tommy Gage. Though McClain’s apartment was empty, she showed up and talked to investigators.
Detectives then learned of a residence in Harris County where McClain’s sister lives and the child might be, Gage said. Keegan was found later Tuesday evening at that home.
McClain’s sister, Corina Jackson, told authorities that McClain had talked about needing to “do the adoption” soon after taking Keegan.
McClain was later arrested. Police do not believe anyone else was involved.
Authorities have interviewed McClain’s fiance, who was not identified Wednesday. Zenor of the Montgomery County sheriff’s office said McClain had told her fiance that she had given birth to their child when she had actually miscarried.
The kidnapped baby has been returned to his family, according to his father, Keith Schuchardt, who said he had been married to Kala Golden for three years.
Asked by reporters what he would tell his wife now, Schuchardt said, “I wish you were here with me to get me through this.”
Schuchardt, who also has a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, said officials were initially concerned about his criminal record, which includes felony convictions for possession of a controlled substance and burglary of a coin-operated machine.
Gwen Carter, a spokeswoman for Texas’ Department of Family and Protective Services, said Schuchardt could see his children as often as he wanted while authorities worked on the case.
McClain is a vocational nurse at a local staffing agency, a job that involves providing basic nursing services under the direction of registered nurses and doctors. She holds vocational nursing licenses in California and Texas and has not faced disciplinary action in either state, according to licensing boards.
Associated Press writers Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Spring, Michael Graczyk in Conroe and Nomaan Merchant and Danny Robbins in Dallas contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.