BELLEVILLE, Ill. - A woman pleaded guilty yesterday to killing her pregnant friend, the unborn child and the victim's three children in a plea deal that allowed her to avoid the death penalty.

Tiffany Hall, 26, pleaded guilty to all five charges against her - four counts of murder and one count of intentional homicide in the death of the fetus - and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Hall struck her friend Jimella Tunstall, 23, on the head repeatedly with a table leg, then cut Tunstall's fetus from her womb in a bathtub, prosecutor Robert Haida said. Tunstall bled to death, Haida said. Hall then dumped her friend's body in an East St. Louis lot.

Hours later, Hall told police in Illinois she had given birth to a stillborn child. When police arrived, she had the dead fetus with her. She refused to be examined at a hospital.

Three days later, Hall visited the father of two of Tunstall's children and the unborn child, Haida said. The father was caring for all the children, Haida said. Hall told the father that Tunstall wanted her to pick up the children and Tunstall's vehicle, he told police.

The father told the officers that was the last time he saw his children, Haida said.

Hall then drowned the three children - DeMond Tunstall, 7, Ivan Tunstall-Collins 2, and Jinella Tunstall, 1 - in the same bathtub where she had killed their mother, Haida said.

Authorities said Hall's story began to unravel on Sept. 21, 2006, about a week after Tunstall's death, when she told her boyfriend that she killed a pregnant woman and stole the fetus. He told police.

The bodies of the three children were found two days later hidden in a washer and dryer inside the East St. Louis apartment where the children had lived with their mother.

One of Hall's attorneys, James Gomric, said he could not speak to a motive or discuss whether his client had shown remorse. He said Hall had been mentally fit to stand trial, but she also had unresolved mental health issues and had an IQ in the mid-70s.

After the hearing, some of Tunstall's relatives said they had already forgiven Hall. Sandra Myers, Jimella Tunstall's mother, said taking one life would not have been justice for losing the lives of others. "I have to forgive her," she said. *