After an evening movie, Nicole Vultaggio and a female friend were strolling along the Redding River Trail about a month ago when they were ambushed by two assailants.
Vultaggio, eight months pregnant, was punched multiple times in the face and the head. The attackers choked her and knocked her to the ground, where they forcefully kicked her in the abdomen.
On Thursday, the Redding Police Department issued arrest warrants for two men in connection with the attack. One of them is the father of Vultaggio's then-unborn baby, Lance Swann, and the other is his friend Jeffrey Thomas Walton both active-duty Marines at Camp Pendleton in Orange County.
The friend whom Vultaggio, 18, was walking with that night, Erica Swann, Lance Swann's cousin, was also arrested as an accomplice in the assault.
Redding police said Lance Swann apparently was so desperate to escape the responsibilities of fatherhood that he coordinated the attack on his ex-girlfriend.
The kicks to the abdomen forced Vultaggio to undergo an emergency C-section at the nearby Mercy Medical Center.
"My placenta broke open," Vultaggio said Friday in an interview with The Bee. She gave birth the next morning at 5:12 a.m. to a premature baby son, Edan. He weighed 6 pounds and was 19 inches long.
"He had a small bruise on his head that the doctor said would have been from being kicked," said Nicole Vultaggio's father, Roger Vultaggio. But Edan was otherwise unharmed and healthy.
Nicole Vultaggio, meanwhile, had so many injuries, especially to her head, that her face was about the size of a small basketball, said her father. She suffered two swollen black eyes that took a week and a half to heal, along with bruises all over her body.
Walton and Lance Swann, both 20, will be transported from the Orange County jail to Shasta County and charged with conspiracy, robbery, and felony assault, police said. Swann, who had returned from Afghanistan two weeks before the attack, faces an additional charge of spousal abuse.
Erica Swann, 29, of Anderson faces charges of conspiracy, robbery and felony assault.
Nicole Vultaggio became pregnant while she was living in San Diego and dating Lance Swann. She didn't find out about her pregnancy until after he left for Afghanistan.
She said Swann didn't want to have anything to do with the baby and initially had some friends take her to an abortion clinic. But she decided to keep the baby and moved back to Redding.
"He just said, 'Don't include me on child support, just leave me alone,' " she said.
Erica Swann visited Vultaggio multiple times during her pregnancy and told Vultaggio she did not agree with Lance Swann's actions, Roger Vultaggio said.
He said Erica Swann invited Nicole Vultaggio to a movie June 20 and then suggested a walk over the Sundial Bridge. Around 10:40 p.m., they reached a poorly lit area along a botanical garden fence, where the attack occurred from two directions. "There's a pocket of chain fence around a tree, and one guy hid behind that tree," said Roger Vultaggio. "The other came up from the embankment."
Both women's purses were taken. At the hospital Nicole Vultaggio saw that Erica Swann was unharmed. It was then, she said, she realized that Erica Swann was in on the attack.
"I believed the robbery was an afterthought, and we confirmed that yesterday (July 19)," said Redding Police Detective Greg Wilkes. "I believe Lance Swann was the primary aggressor, and they attacked in hopes that she would miscarriage or lose the baby."
"We looked at her (Erica Swann's) phone records and saw she was in constant communication with an unknown phone number," Wilkes said. Investigators traced the disposable phone's travel history using cell towers and found out it came from Laguna Niguel in Southern California.
Redding investigators then found out that Lance Swann and a fellow Marine, whom they identified as Walton, had left the Orange County area for a few days.
"With the assistance of Camp Pendleton and NCIS, we were able to conduct an interview with that subject (Walton)," said Wilkes, adding that Walton confirmed his and Erica Swann's involvement.
Nicole Vultaggio said she now plans to move on with her life and focus on providing for her son.
"I'm disappointed in Lance, and he is worthless to our lives," she said. "I'm going to go back to school and work on my future. Edan deserves nothing but the best, and his father can't offer him that."