GEAUGA COUNTY, Ohio — Opening statements started Thursday in the trial of a Euclid woman accused of putting her newborn baby, umbilical cord still attached, in a garbage bag and leaving it in the woods in Geauga County in 1993.
Gail Eastwood-Ritchey, of Euclid, the child’s mother, is charged with aggravated murder and murder.
Jury selection for the trial wrapped up Monday.
Opening statements began Thursday. Re-watch them in the media player below:
The State of Ohio presented opening statements first, telling the jury they will hear from a woman named Cheryl who, along with her friend, found the baby near the side of the road while delivering papers on their paper route in 1993.
“They saw what they first thought was a baby doll laying [sic] in the road. They turn around and come back to take a closer look, and when they get out of the vehicle and look at what they thought was a baby doll, we realized this was actually a human child,” said the prosecutor.
The prosecuting team said the court will also hear from Chardon Police Chief Scott Niehus who documented the scene in 1993 when he was working as a detective.
“As we talked about these photographs that you will see of the child in the road and the autopsy photographs, they're graphic and they're disturbing, but they are necessary for the state to prove its case,” the prosecutor said, referring to the photos that will be shown during the trial.
When it was the defense’s turn, they said Ritchey never told anyone she was pregnant and no one noticed that she was pregnant, including her mom, dad and sister who she lived with at the time.
The defense painted a picture of the day in 1993 when Ritchey sat down on the toilet and had no idea she was giving birth.
“She had no idea she was giving birth. She felt the need to push when she sat down. And that's exactly what she did. She had — it was an uncontrollable urge, and it was a very short period of time. And she had no contractions. She never felt her water break. There was no real significant pain. Very little blood. As I said, within 15 to 30 minutes, the baby, the umbilical cord and the placenta all came out and into the toilet,” the defense said.
On March 25, 1993, a newborn baby was found near Sidley Road in Thompson Township. The child was partially dismembered and still had his umbilical cord attached. Authorities said the child had been placed in a trash bag and left in a wooded area but was dragged to the side of the road by animals.
The case was coined "Geauga's Child," a cold case that haunted authorities for more than 20 years.
Sheriff deputies stated that familial DNA from a voluntary ancestry online database was used to track Ritchey down. They identified distant family members in 2018.
Detectives used the same techniques that allowed authorities to track down the Golden State Killer. Authorities said the case is the 51st in the nation to be potentially solved using familial DNA techniques.
At the time of her arrest in 2019, she admitted to giving birth to the child, placing him in a bag and leaving him in the woods.
According to the sheriff’s office, Ritchey also confessed to committing a similar crime with another child in 1991 in Cuyahoga County, two years prior to police finding Geauga’s Child.
Investigators say Ritchey is still married to the baby's father, but that she hid the pregnancy from everyone. They say Ritchey now has three grown children.