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Vermont State Police close 1982 case of infant found dead in Northfield

State Police vehicles on road in front of a field
Vermont State Police
Vermont State Police announced last week that they’d identified the parents of an infant who was found dead on the side of the road in Northfield in 1982. Law enforcement officials say no criminal charges will be filed.

Vermont State Police announced last week that they’ve identified the parents of an infant who was found dead on the side of the road in Northfield more than four decades ago.

The names of the parents will not be released because no criminal charges will be filed, state police said.

The infant, who investigators call “Baby Doe,” was found on April 1, 1982 by a group of children waiting for a school bus on what’s now known as Gillespie Road in Northfield.

The medical examiner found signs that the baby boy had an existing medical condition, but the examiner wasn’t able to determine a cause or manner of death.

Investigators canvassed the area and collected evidence, but were unable to identify the baby or his parents until December 2021.

Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based DNA technology company that was working with VSP, used 42-year-old blood and tissue samples from the baby to develop a list of people who could be the infant’s parents.

Detectives found that two of the names on the list had ties to the Northfield area in 1982, and after collecting DNA samples from them confirmed that the two adults were the parents of the infant found in Northfield.

More from Vermont Public: VSP's Major Crime Unit investigates dozens of cold cases. It can be a challenge to move them forward

According to VSP, the father told investigators that in 1982 he’d left Vermont and had no knowledge of the pregnancy.

The mother told detectives that, at the time, she didn’t realize she was pregnant until she went into labor. The woman passed out while she was having the baby, and woke up to find that the infant was dead, state police said in a press release.

The woman took the baby to a wooded area to bury it, but dropped the baby and ran when she thought she heard voices, said Capt. Jeremy Hill, the commander of VSP’s Major Crime Unit.

“Obviously it wasn't the right thing to do,” Hill said in an interview. “But at the time, she was scared — she didn't know what to do.”

Washington County State’s Attorney Michelle Donnelly, after reviewing the statements of the baby’s parents and the autopsy reports, determined that murder charges weren’t warranted.

“We still don't have enough evidence to say that this was an intentional act by the mother,” Hill said.

The other potential charge, unauthorized disposal of a dead body, couldn't be brought because the statute of limitations for that charge is three years.

The Baby Doe case was one of more than 80 unsolved homicides and missing persons cases in Vermont. These cold cases are challenging to move forward, and police have only solved a few cold cases in the past decade.

Burlington Police announced last year that they’d solved the 50-year-old murder of Rita Curran, and in 2022 the Major Crime Unit arrested a suspect in a 1989 double murder.

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Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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