MENDHAM TOWNSHIP, N.J. (PIX11) – Investigators have solved a nearly 40-year-old cold case involving the death of “Baby Mary,” a newborn whose body was found in a wooded area in New Jersey in 1984, authorities said.
The baby girl’s body was found off of Mt. Pleasant Road in Mendham Township on Christmas Eve in 1984. She was less than a day old when she was abandoned in the remote area, her umbilical cord still attached, according to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.
The baby girl, whose identity was unknown, was baptized by the Rev. Michael Drury, of St. Joseph Church. Drury, the Mendham Township Police Department chaplain, named the baby “Mary.”
The identity of Baby Mary’s parents remained a mystery for nearly four decades – until this year when the infant’s mother was identified and charged in the case, law enforcement officials announced Thursday.
“Using new technology, law enforcement networking in three states, and old-fashioned police work, investigators were recently able to identify Baby Mary’s biological father and mother,” the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office said in a news release.
DNA analysis led to the identification of Baby Mary’s mother, authorities said. She was tracked down in South Carolina and charged with manslaughter in April.
The mother was 17 years old at the time of her baby’s death and is being charged as a juvenile, so her identity won’t be released, authorities said. If found guilty, she could be sentenced up to three years in prison.
The biological father of Baby Mary died 14 years ago, before investigators were able to identify him, according to authorities. However, investigators said there’s no evidence he was ever aware of the pregnancy.
“For the past 39 years, the Mendham Township Police Department has pursued this investigation relentlessly to solve this case. If it were not for the hard work and dedication of our officers, who have worked this case over the years, this case would still be unsolved,” Mendham Township Police Chief Ross Johnson said in a statement.
Johnson said former Police Chief Steven Crawford called for a re-examination of the Baby Mary case nine years ago, which led to more leads being examined and investigators eventually cracking the case.
“I want to commend all of our current and former Mendham Township Police Officers who investigated or worked this case in one fashion or another, which helped get us here today, as well as Father Michael Drury, who made Baby Mary a part of our community and department over 30 years ago,” Johnson said.
Johnson said members of the Mendham Township Police Department and community have held a memorial service at the grave of Baby Mary every Christmas Eve for the past 35 years.
“Today we are finally able to bring closure to this case and the community that has supported her,” Johnson said.