More than 38 years ago, two boys found the body of a newborn baby girl, wrapped in a towel in a plastic bag, in the woods. She still had her umbilical cord attached.
The discovery was made on the morning of Christmas Eve in Mendham Township, New Jersey in 1984, according to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.
An autopsy showed the child was alive when she was born, before she was abandoned, and her death was ruled a homicide by a medical examiner, officials said.
The Rev. Michael Drury, a police chaplain at St. Joseph Church in Mendham Township, baptized the baby and decided to name her “Mary,” according to officials, who said she was laid to rest at the church.
The case remained cold for almost forty years – until investigators recently discovered the identity of the girl’s biological parents, the Public Prosecution Service announced in a September 7 press release.
According to officials, the baby’s father died before he was identified. Investigators believe he had no idea the birth mother was pregnant or had given birth.
As for the mother, investigators tracked her down where she now lives in South Carolina, prosecutor Robert J. Carroll said at a Sept. 7 news conference.
Officials say she is now charged with manslaughter. Her identity is not being made public because she was a minor when she gave birth to Baby Mary in 1984, officials said.
“The death and abandonment of this girl is a tragic loss and remains as heartbreaking even after nearly 40 years,” Carroll said in the news release.
Identifying the baby’s parents required the help of “new technology” and “old-fashioned police work,” the news release said.
According to the release, a juvenile delinquency complaint was filed against the mother on April 24, prior to the manslaughter charge.
“Justice may not take the form the public has imagined all these years, but we believe this juvenile delinquency complaint will serve justice for Baby Mary,” Carroll said. “Nothing can right this terrible evil.”
People have been gathering at the baby’s burial site at St. Joseph Church for more than 30 years, according to Mendham Township Police Chief Ross Johnson.
“For the past 35 years, members of our department and community have left their own families every Christmas Eve at noon to remember Baby Mary during a graveside service to ensure she is never forgotten,” Johnson said.
Mendham Township is located approximately 35 miles west of New York City.
‘Lady of the Dunes’ was murdered by her husband shortly after marriage in 1974, officials say
Bite marks on woman’s body help identify suspects in 1994 cold case, California officials say
Woman was killed during a solo walk 36 years ago, AZ officers say. DNA just identified the suspect