Charge Filed in 1984 Cold Case Homicide of “Baby Mary”

Published on September 07, 2023

Morris County Officials Announce Arrest of Mother of the Infant

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Morris County officials gathered this morning for a press conference where it was announced by Prosecutor Robert J. Carroll that an arrest and charge has been filed in connection with the homicide of “Baby Mary”, ending a four-decade-long cold case that started when a one-day old infant was found dead in a Mendham Township park on Christmas Eve in 1984.

View the Press Conference on Morris County’s YouTube Channel

At approximately 10:35 a.m. on December 24, 1984, two boys reported an abandoned and deceased newborn baby girl in a remote wooded area off Mt. Pleasant Road in Mendham, NJ. Law enforcement officers located the baby girl’s body wrapped in a towel inside a plastic bag, with the umbilical cord still attached.  The Medical Examiner determined the infant had been alive at the time of her birth and the death was ruled a homicide.

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For decades, investigators have vigorously pursued every lead to identify the baby and learn more about the circumstances surrounding her discovery in the woods. By utilizing modern technology, law enforcement networking in three states and old-fashioned police work, investigators recently were able to identify the baby’s biological parents.

“This arrest is the culmination of decades of effort, across multiple generations of law enforcement. It is a tribute to the tenacity and dedication of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO), our Major Crimes Unit, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office and the Mendham Township Police Department,” stated Prosecutor Carroll.

The baby’s mother was arrested in South Carolina on April 24, 2023. The woman, who was 17 at the time of the infant’s death, has been charged by way of a juvenile delinquency complaint and her name will not be released. She has been charged with one count of manslaughter, an offense which would be a second-degree crime if committed by an adult.

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The biological father passed away prior to being identified by investigators. There is no evidence he was aware of the pregnancy, or of the birth and death of the infant.

“I want young parents to know that there is help available.  In 1984, the Safe Haven Infant Protection Act did not exist but, on August 7, 2000, the Act became law, sponsored locally by the late Senator Anthony Bucco. The legislation allows parents or their representatives to anonymously surrender a newborn baby at any hospital emergency room, police station, fire station, ambulance, first aid, or rescue squads that are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If the baby appears to be 30 days old or less, and free of any abuse or neglect, the baby will be accepted with no questions asked,” stated Sheriff James Gannon.

The baby girl, whose identity was unknown at the time she was found, was baptized by Rev. Michael Drury of St. Joseph Church in Mendham, who was also the township’s police chaplain. He named her “Mary” and saw that she was buried in the church’s cemetery, where he held a graveside service to honor and pray for the deceased child every Christmas Eve thereafter.

“Every Christmas Eve for the past 35 years, members of our department and community have left their own families at noon to remember Baby Mary at a service by her grave, to ensure she is never forgotten. Today, we are finally able to bring closure to this case and the community that has supported her,” said Mendham Township Police Chief Ross Johnson.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit at 973-285-6192, the Mendham Township Police Department at 973-455-1700 or Morris County Sheriff’s CrimeStoppers at 973-267-2255.

Media inquiries concerning this press release should be directed to MCPO’s Public Information Officer Meghan Knab at [email protected].

Photo 1: Prosecutor Carroll acknowledges the work of Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Deputy Chief Jan-Michael Monrad, Lieutenant Michael Gomez, Sergeant Sasha Gould, Sergeant Matthew Magnone, Detective Dakota Keyworth, and Chief Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Schellhorn; along with Morris County Sheriff James Gannon and Morris County Sheriff’s Office Detective Rosie Brown; and Mendham Township Police Chief Ross Johnson, Mendham Township Police Lieutenant Steven Bittman, Sergeant Matthew Ambrosi, and Detective James Arnesen; and Forensic Scientist Christine Schlenker of the New Jersey State Police Office of Forensic Sciences. (Note: order of names and appearance may not correspond with those depicted in photo).

Photo 2: (Front) Morris County Prosecutor Carroll. (Back, from left to right) Mendham Township Police Chief Johnson, Morris County Chief of Detectives Robert McNally and Sheriff Gannon.

Photo 3: (Front) Morris County Sheriff Gannon. (Back, from left to right) Mendham Township Police Chief Johnson, Chief of Detectives McNally and Morris County Sheriff’s Office Detective Rosie Brown.

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