CHARDON, Ohio – A woman who put her newborn baby boy in a garbage bag and left him in a wooded area in 1993 was charged with aggravated murder after detectives tracked her down using DNA from relatives around the world, a county sheriff outside Cleveland said Thursday.
Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand announced at a news conference that deputies had arrested 49-year-old Gail Eastwood-Ritchey, of the Cleveland suburb of Euclid.
Hildenbrand said Eastwood-Ritchey "admitted to a similar crime two years prior," adding that she had left that newborn somewhere in Cuyahoga County. Eastwood-Ritchey provided a precise location within the county, but detectives were unable to find any remains, he said.
The body of the newborn, his umbilical cord still attached, was found by in Geauga County after the child was apparently dragged by animals onto a roadway in Thompson Township, the sheriff said. A coroner ruled the child had been born alive but couldn't determine a cause of death.
"To this day, even though she admitted to her involvement, she shows absolutely no remorse," Hildenbrand said.
It's unclear whether Eastwood-Ritchey has an attorney. She was indicted Thursday.
Community members paid for a funeral, burial and a headstone marked "Geauga's Child" where gifts and flowers continue to be placed at his well-tended grave.
Hildenbrand said detectives decided last fall to explore the relatively new technology of familial DNA that has been used to solve dozens of cases.
Geauga County Detective Donald Seamon said investigators used a family tree of 1,400 relatives and then asked some of them to voluntarily provide DNA or to allow their DNA on private websites to be made public before honing in Eastwood-Ritchey as their suspect.
DNA detectives used a search warrant to obtain Eastwood-Ritchey's DNA two weeks ago, Seamon said.
Hildenbrand thanked the relatives for their help and said the case wouldn't have been solved at this point without them. He said detectives had spent untold hours trying to find the newborn's parents the last 26 years and that retired deputies volunteered their time to work on the case.
Eastwood-Ritchey married the newborn's father and they have three adult children, Hildenbrand said.
"Her statement was that she hid the pregnancy and no one knew she was pregnant," the sheriff added.