Before the kidnapping that got worldwide attention, Heidi Broussard and the woman Austin police suspect was involved in her death shared joy that they were pregnant at the same time and wondered if they would give birth the same day, according to court documents released Monday.
But the other woman, Magen Fieramusca, was not pregnant and had set up an elaborate hoax to kidnap Broussard’s baby and present the infant as her own, an affidavit charging her with kidnapping said.
"That’s the baby at my house," a man with whom Fieramusca was living told authorities when shown a picture of Broussard’s weeks-old infant, who had disappeared with her mother on Dec. 12.
Fieramusca, 33, is charged with kidnapping and evidence tampering and remains in the Travis County Jail with bail set at $600,000. She is due in court on Feb. 3.
Broussard’s body was found last month in a duffel bag in the trunk of a car outside a home where Fieramusca was living northwest of Houston. No one has been charged with her strangulation, but police say they are still investigating.
The nine-page affidavit provides the most complete official account of the women’s relationship and why police suspect Fieramusca, who met Broussard at a church camp about 10 years ago, is linked to the crime.
The document also reveals that the baby’s medical condition brought an added sense of urgency, bringing together investigators from the Austin Police Department, FBI, Texas Rangers and others to comb cellphone records, interview tipsters and find forensic evidence to help solve the case.
The affidavit said Fieramusca acted suspiciously soon after Broussard gave birth at a hospital in Austin. The newborn’s grandfather noted that Fieramusca interrupted his first meeting with his granddaughter, asking to hold the baby first.
Fieramusca also had a key to Broussard’s South Austin apartment and told the baby’s father, Shane Carey, that she would leave it on a counter. He later told police that he never found the key.
On Dec. 18, six days after Broussard and her baby disappeared, police interviewed a woman who lived in their apartment complex. She told police that she saw two women interacting and that one of them appeared to be carrying an infant police think was Broussard’s daughter. The other woman, the neighbor revealed, resembled a person in a photo lineup that police say was Fieramusca.
As authorities began investigating Fieramusca, they obtained a search warrant for her internet search history. The affidavit said she had searched for "bodies found in Austin, Texas" on Dec. 14. Fieramusca's Facebook account, active since 2008, was terminated on Dec. 17 while authorities investigated Broussard’s disappearance.
Investigators began watching the Houston-area home where Fieramusca was living and noticed her car was parked in a way that looked as though its owner may have been trying to hide it, the affidavit said.
Authorities also interviewed Christopher Green, the man who owned the home where Fieramusca was living, and Green told them the two had broken up in March but still lived in the home together.
He told police that he had never seen Fieramusca’s bare stomach during her pregnancy but believed she had gotten pregnant around the time they broke up.
He told investigators that Fieramusca said she had given birth to a baby girl while she was out of town at the beach and that she told him, "Don’t be mad," after she returned home with a baby.
An investigator with the Texas Rangers approached Fieramusca outside the home on Dec. 19 while Green was out shopping for baby formula. Fieramusca, who was holding a baby monitor, told the investigator she had given birth on Dec. 12 at a birthing center in The Woodlands and went home later that day.
Pressed for the specific birthing center, Fieramusca said she could not remember it. The affidavit said Fieramusca denied being in Austin at the time of Broussard’s disappearance.
Fieramusca’s lawyer, Brian Erskine, released a statement Monday requesting patience as he and his co-counsel, Jackie Wood, obtain more information on the allegations against their client.
"Ms. Jackie Wood and I are anxious to review the evidence collected thus far and have many of the same questions you do. Those accused, as well as the public at large, understandably want swift and certain answers from our criminal justice system," Erskine said.
"The cursory information contained in the recently released probable cause affidavit is nothing more than mere allegations," he continued. "As with every American accused of a crime, unless the state has proven these allegations beyond any reasonable doubt, Ms. Fieramusca remains innocent."
Erskine went on to explain that prosecutors are not required to provide defense attorneys with all of the case evidence until a grand jury brings an indictment on charges, which could be months away.
"However, Travis County has maintained a policy to provide pre-indictment discovery/evidence to the defense team," Erskine said. "We have asked they comply with their policy, but prosecutors have now refused, citing case complexity."
Erskine said his team is "exploring all options at our disposal to vigorously represent Ms. Fieramusca, considering the prosecution’s refusal to provide us with information at this time."
With Fieramusca behind bars, authorities are trying to determine where Broussard was killed and who killed her. The neighbor who saw the women together near Broussard’s apartment raised suspicion that a second person could have been involved, noting in her interview with police that Fieramusca was in the front passenger seat of a vehicle that Broussard and her baby entered from the back. The affidavit did not mention who was driving.
Although the criminal case is currently playing out in Travis County, it’s possible that another jurisdiction could pick it up if evidence shows Broussard was killed elsewhere.
The tampering charge that Fieramusca faces is a second-degree felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. The two kidnapping charges against her are third-degree felonies punishable by up to 10 years.