CHARDON — Twenty-six years ago a dead baby boy was found in Geauga County and the case went unsolved until Thursday.
Gail Eastwood Ritchey, 49, of Euclid, was charged with aggravated murder and murder in the cold case, according to officials from the Geauga County sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices, who hosted a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand was on the scene March 25, 1993 when the baby was found on Sidley Road in Thompson Township. The newborn baby was dead with a partially attached umbilical cord and partially dismembered by what appeared to be animals.
“For the past 26 years, the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office has been working very hard to solve the case of Geauga’s baby,” Hildebrand said. “Today, we announce that the case has been solved thanks to the hard work of the men and women of the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office and the suspect is in custody.”
At the time, the baby was sent to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner, who determined the baby was born alive, but a cause of death was never determined.
The people of Geauga County had a funeral for the baby, got a headstone and named him Geauga’s Child. To this day, the grave is cared for by citizens in the Thompson Cemetery.
Over the years, detectives followed up on thousands of leads, but it wasn’t until the Prosecutor Jim Flaiz and the Sheriff’s Office took advantage of familial DNA techniques that distant family members of Geauga’s Child were identified.
A family tree consisting of more than 1,400 people, located around the world, was created in order to identify the baby’s parents.
“They were narrowed down by their DNA that they had previously submitted to an online database,” Hildebrand said.
With the permission of those on the list, the DNA was compared to the DNA of Geauga’s child and a search warrant was issued for Ritchey. She admitted to having given birth to the child, placing him in a trash bag and leaving him in a wooded area.
Ritchey also admitted to a similar crime two years before dumping Geauga’s Child in Thompson, but the remains of that child have not been found.
Authorities said Ritchey is currently married with two adult children and that the man she is married to is the father of Geauga’s child. Ritchey’s husband has not been charged and the case is still under investigation, they said, though it appears she hid the pregnancies from others.
Ritchey left the baby for dead and she has shown no remorse, Hildebrand said.
“She had not even thought about this until we brought it up,” he said. “She completely put it out of her mind. She always referred to the baby as an ‘it.’ She really has no emotion as far as that’s concerned.”
A special grand jury met Thursday and indicted Ritchey, Flaiz said. She will soon appear for arraignment in common pleas court.
DNA technology has come a long way since the time when Ritchey is accused of committing her crimes, Flaiz said. This case represents hundreds of hours of investigation, many search warrants and interviews and world travel in order to come back with an indictment.
The DNA aspect of the case is significant and interesting, but at the end of the day law enforcement deserve the credit, Flaiz said.
“It takes good old fashioned detective work to follow the leads, interview potential suspects and link potential family members with our area and with the area where the body was found,” Flaiz said.