Troy cops: Milligan, unborn baby were murder victims

Posted at: 04/11/2014 3:25 PM
Updated at: 04/11/2014 11:43 PM
By: WNYT Staff

The scene of the fire on April 3.
The scene of the fire on April 3.
Photo: File / WNYT

Flowers now make up part of a memorial at the fire site.
Flowers now make up part of a memorial at the fire site.
Photo: Dan Levy / WNYT

TROY - It was suspicious from the start, but one week after a 19-year old woman and her unborn baby died in a Lansingburgh fire, police say the fire was no accident. Even though police are saying they're absolutely certain that Vanessa Milligan was deliberately killed, they're stopping short of saying whether she died before or during the fire that consumed her Fifth Avenue apartment.

The roadside memorial that is directly across from the burned out building, and went up a day after Milligan died, is still a memorial, but now, the horrific circumstances of her death, according to police, have become a crime.

"Our victim was murdered by another human being," declared Troy Police Captain John Cooney, "And unfortunately, not only our victim, but our victim's full-term child in this case, which sadly we've been deprived of even getting to see on this earth."

Meanwhile, Pastor Willie Bacote of the Missing Link Street Ministry Church, who was Milligan's spiritual advisor, says the latest developments in the case leaves him heartbroken, distraught, and emotionally paralyzed.

"This is a sad occasion," said Paster Willie, "When does it stop? When do we send a message and when to we say, "Enough is enough?" Especially when we start killing our own youth and their unborn children. This is ridiculous."

While Paster Willie describes Milligan's death as something out of a CSI television episode, Troy Police are calling it a cruel and inhumane act.

"We'll be looking at boyfriends, family members, and street gangs," Cooney says, "We'll be looking at every possible group or individual out there that could be responsible."

Milligan died the night of April 3rd, just a day after her grandmother, Marilyn Houser, the woman who raised her, passed away. At the time of the fire, Vanessa was 39 weeks pregnant, which is why detectives say they're hunting for a double killer.

Former Albany County District Attorney Arnold Proskin says murder charges for unborn babies don't come up very often in the criminal justice system. He says the New York Penal Law is very clear, a fetus that has reached its 24th week of development, legally speaking, is a viable human being.

"Basically, if you kill the woman, I think if I were district attorney again, I'd probably be saying,"Yeah, you're going to be responsible for killing that unborn baby," Proskin says.

Even though Troy Police say they're certain about the homicide charges, they're not revealing the cause of death. Toxicology tests, Cooney says, are not yet complete.

In the meantime, both police and Pastor Willie are urging anyone with information to come forward.