A former church pastor from New Jersey was ordered Thursday to stand trial in the unprovoked attack on a stranger’s baby at an Overland Park Wal-Mart.
Oleh Zhownirovych is charged in Johnson County District Court with aggravated battery, aggravated kidnapping and battery.
A judge on Thursday heard witness testimony about the incident last October in the 7700 block of Frontage Road.
Monquisha Hill testified that she was standing in the checkout line with her then-4-month-old daughter in a car seat in a cart when a man she didn’t know took her daughter from her cart.
“It happened suddenly,” she said. “I was really startled, shocked.”
Hill said the man put the car seat handle around his neck so he and her daughter were facing each other.
She testified that the man said, “I’m going to take her. Call 911.”
The man then placed his hands around the baby’s neck and began choking her, Hill testified.
“He was trying to get the breath out of her,” she said.
He was also moving away in the direction of the exit as if he were trying to leave.
Hill screamed for help as she tried to get the man’s hands off her daughter.
Several people came to her aid, got the baby away from him and held him until police arrived.
In court Thursday, Hill identified Zhownirovych as the man who attacked her baby.
The incident left scratch marks on the little girl’s neck, and the baby experienced eating and sleeping troubles for weeks after the attack, Hill said.
Zhownirovych, 54, is the former pastor of a Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Clifton, N.J. Authorities have not said why he was in the Kansas City area.
A May 22 trial date has been set.