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State health officials launch investigation of hospital treating baby of murdered mother

Illinois Department of Public Health officials are investigating Christ Medical Center in connection with its handling of the baby of Marlen Ochoa-Lopez.

Yovani Lopez holds his son at Christ Medical Center.
Yovani Lopez holds his son on Sunday at Christ Medical Center.
Photo provided

A south suburban hospital is under investigation by state health officials over how it handled the case of a newborn baby who was brought in last month after allegedly being cut out of his mother’s womb as part of a gruesome plot to steal the child.

The Illinois Department of Public Health confirmed Tuesday that officials were investigating Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in connection with the case of Marlen Ochoa-Lopez’s murder, but would not comment further.

The department of public health is mandated to regulate hospitals in the state and works to ensure hospitals are operating in compliance with state laws.

The baby, named Yovanny Jadiel Lopez, remains at Christ Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit, where doctors are continuing to monitor his condition and will perform additional tests this week, family spokeswoman Julie Contreras said Tuesday.

The baby of Yovani Lopez and Marlen Ochoa-Lopez on Sunday at Christ Medical Center.
The baby of Yovani Lopez and Marlen Ochoa-Lopez on Sunday at Christ Medical Center.
Photo provided

The baby’s mother, Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, was killed April 23 after being lured to the Scottsdale home of Clarisa Figueroa, 46, and her 24-year-old daughter with the promise to provide her with baby clothes, Cook County prosecutors have said.

Both Clarisa and Desiree Figueroa face a charge of first-degree murder in Ochoa-Lopez’s death and are being held at the Cook County Jail after being denied bail at a hearing last week.

Prosecutors said the two women plotted to kill Ochoa-Lopez before strangling the expectant mother with a coaxial cable and then cutting the baby from her womb with a butcher’s knife.

Clarisa Figueroa then called 911 and was brought to Christ Medical Center with the baby, who she claimed was her own, authorities said. Clarisa Figueroa was examined at the hospital “but showed no signs consistent with a woman who had just delivered a baby,” which she said was her own for weeks until a DNA test proved the baby was Ochoa-Lopez’s child, prosecutors said.

It wasn’t until May 9 that a “mandated reporter” at the hospital — someone required to report suspected neglect or abuse — notified the Department of Child and Family Services about the newborn, DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch said.

On Monday, the Cook County sheriff’s office announced it was questioning whether the hospital violated the Abuse and Neglected Children Reporting Act when it failed to immediately notify child protection authorities that Clarisa Figueroa did not appear to have given birth to the boy.

However, the sheriff’s office said Tuesday that it will not pursue an investigation, instead allowing state officials to “take the lead,” according to office spokeswoman Cara Smith.

‘Praying for a miracle’

Contreras said the baby opened his eyes Sunday while he was visited by his older brother and his father, Yovani Lopez, and that the family is “praying for a miracle.”

“His father said ‘fight my handsome son’ and he opened his eyes,” Contreras said.

Contreras said doctors haven’t been able to tell the family what that means for the boy’s chances, but will continue to run tests this week.

“I see a medical team who has cared for this child from day one,” Contreras said. “[The family has] been provided the best medical care and support from” the hospital.

Yovani Lopez, the husband of Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, embraces one of his grandmothers who arrived Thursday night in Chicago from Mexico.
Nader Issa/Sun-Times

On Tuesday night, the boy’s family welcomed the grandparents of both Ochoa-Lopez and her husband, Yovani Lopez, to Chicago in an emotional embrace at Lincoln United Methodist Church in the Heart of Chicago neighborhood.

Both sets of grandparents came from Mexico on Tuesday morning and flew to Chicago from Houston after being granted a 20-day humanitarian parole by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to Contreras.

Ochoa-Lopez’s mother, father and husband stood among a couple dozen family members and supporters at the church, waiting with flowers and balloons. They tearfully hugged the grandparents once they arrived from the airport, telling reporters of their mixed emotions.

Earlier Tuesday night at O’Hare Airport, Ochoa-Lopez’s grandmother told reporters through a translator that “there are no words for what we feel inside.”

“It hurts us profoundly that we lost our granddaughter,” the grandmother told reporters. “We have come here to give our final goodbye.”

Lopez’s grandmother told reporters the family had “to be with him” after the death of his wife.

“We’re here to support Yovani because he’s like in shock,” Yovani’s grandmother said.

The maternal and paternal grandmothers of Marlen Ochoa-Lopez (front in blue) cross the border from Mexico Tuesday morning ahead of a flight to Chicago to see their family and meet their great-grandson at Christ Medical Center.
Photo provided