SNOW HILL, Md. – All charges were dropped Wednesday against Christy Freeman, a woman accused of killing her newborn child in 2004 and keeping other sets of fetal remains around her Ocean City home.
Worcester County State's Attorney Joel Todd asked a grand jury in closed-door proceedings Wednesday to dismiss the murder charges, said Barry Neeb, an Ocean City Police spokesman.
Neeb said the dismissal came because of insufficient evidence after a medical examiner's report.
"They decided that they were not going to hand down any charges, any indictments on Christy Freeman based on the evidence submitted," he said.
Freeman had been held without bond since July, when she went to a hospital with heavy bleeding and doctors discovered she'd recently given birth. Investigators found the baby — and three more sets of tiny human remains — at Freeman's house.
Freeman was originally charged with killing her unborn fetus in July, but those charges were later dropped after an autopsy showed that fetus was stillborn. Prosecutors later charged her with killing another child in 2004, based on interviews with Freeman.
Officials at the Worcester County jail could not immediately say whether Freeman had been released. Todd, the prosecutor, did not return calls for comment Wednesday. He planned to hold a news conference Thursday about the case.
Kimberlee Schultz, a spokeswoman for Freeman's lawyer, public defender Burton Anderson, said the defense was not surprised charges were dropped.
"She's always maintained her innocence, so we're happy," Schultz said. At her first court appearance on July 30, Freeman pleaded not guilty and told a judge, "I want to clear my name in this case."
Anderson was out of town Wednesday, and Schultz did not know Freeman's whereabouts.
The case was complicated from the start. Freeman said the dead children were hers, but that she did not kill them. Maryland law expressly protects women who abort their own unborn children from criminal prosecution. It was not clear whether it was a crime to keep human remains of miscarried children.
Raymond W. Godman Jr., Freeman's boyfriend, told The (Salisbury) Daily Times that Freeman's homecoming was low key. "We knew that she was innocent of all charges from the beginning," he said. "She should never have been in there."
Godman blamed authorities for trying to build a false case against Freeman. He said investigators were overly aggressive in pursuing charges. "You're supposed to build a case, then make an arrest," he said.
When asked if the couple was considering filing any lawsuits, Godman replied, "Multiple. Somebody is paying for the destruction done to my property, the destruction done to my house, the destruction done to my business and it rests solely on the police department. We're getting offers (from lawyers), and we're going to get the best."
The case began when Freeman, a 37-year-old taxi driver and mother of four living children, went to the hospital in July after giving birth. Police searched of Freeman's home for the baby, and investigators found a recently deceased fetus under the bathroom sink. They also found three more sets of older human remains, two in a trunk in the living room and one in a Winnebago parked outside.
After an initial exam showed the recent fetus was born dead, prosecutors dismissed murder charges against Freeman, but charged her with killing one of the children found in the trunk. That charge accused her of giving birth to twins on the toilet in 2004 and allowing one of them to die. That was the charge dismissed Wednesday.
Neeb said the dismissal came after prosecutors got more information from the state medical examiner. There was insufficient evidence to charge Freeman with a crime in any of the remains found.
"Everything truly hinges on the medical examiner's report," he said.
Neeb said no further investigation was planned.
"There are no charges pending or anticipated," he said.
Schultz said she hoped the public would leave Freeman and her longtime boyfriend and four living children alone. As investigators sifted through Freeman's yard in August, there was a report of vandalism at the couple's taxi service.
"Given the high degree of publicity and sensationalism of the case, we're hoping her exoneration will be as widely reported and that she and her family will be allowed to return to private life," Schultz said.
Neil Jacobs, president-elect of the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys' Association, said prosecutors appeared to have been tripped up by assuming all the children were fetuses when they died. In such cases, Maryland's fetal homicide law does not apply because it exempts women from acting to terminate their own pregnancies.
"You're sort of stuck with that, and from there, there just wasn't enough to support a reversal of their original conclusions and determinations," said Jacobs, who was not involved in the case.
However, Jacobs said Freeman may face a difficult time moving beyond the accusations.
"Unfortunately, people are charged in big print and oftentimes their cases are disposed of in small print, and oftentimes it's almost impossible for someone to totally get back their standing in the community," Jacobs said.