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Mother charged for almost 40 years after her newborn baby was found dead in remote woods

A woman has been charged in the death of her newborn girl, nearly 40 years after the abandoned baby was found dead in a remote New Jersey wooded area, according to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.

On Christmas Eve 1984, officers discovered the baby’s body wrapped in a towel in a plastic bag along a road in Mendham Township after two boys reported finding her that morning, according to a news release.

According to the press release issued Thursday, the baby’s umbilical cord was still attached. The medical examiner determined that the child, whose death was ruled a homicide, was alive at birth and died less than 24 hours later.

The girl, whose identity was unknown, was given the name “Mary” after she was baptized by a minister at St. Joseph Church in Mendham Township, where she was buried, the prosecutor’s office said.

Finding Baby Mary’s mother

Investigators recently managed to identify Baby Mary’s biological parents using “new technology, law enforcement networks in three states and old-fashioned police work,” the prosecutor’s office said.

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Baby Mary’s biological mother, who was not named by police because she was a minor in 1984, was living in South Carolina when she gave birth to the child, prosecutors said.

The biological father died before he was identified, and police say there is no evidence he knew about the woman’s pregnancy or the baby’s birth and death.

Authorities filed a juvenile delinquency charge against the mother in April, charging her with one count of manslaughter, a crime that would be a second-degree felony if committed by an adult, according to the release.

“This arrest is the culmination of decades of effort by multiple generations of law enforcement officers,” said Morris County Prosecutor Robert J. Carroll.

“The death and abandonment of this girl is a tragic loss and remains as heartbreaking even after almost 40 years,” said Carroll. “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. Nothing can right this terrible evil.”

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The Safe Haven Act did not exist in 1984, police said

Police said New Jersey’s Safe Haven Infant Protection Act, which did not exist at the time the child was abandoned, can help parents and families give up a child safely, legally and anonymously.

The law, which allows parents or their representatives to deliver a newborn baby 30 days old or younger to an emergency room, ambulance, police or fire station, went into effect in August 2000.

“I want young parents to know that help is available,” Morris County Sheriff James Gannon said in the news release. “The baby will be accepted without any questions asked.”

For the past 35 years, community members and law enforcement have held a memorial service at Baby Mary’s grave every Christmas Eve “to ensure she is never forgotten,” Mendham Township Police Chief Ross Johnson said.

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