GEAUGA COUNTY, Ohio — "Geauga’s Child," a cold case that has haunted authorities in Geauga County for more than two and a half decades, has been solved, the sheriff said at a news conference Thursday.
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.
Following the child's discovery, residents across the county arranged for the baby to be buried. People made handmade clothes and donations provided money for a headstone. The boy was laid to rest in the Thompson Township cemetery. Authorities said that to this day, residents care for the boy's grave and leave gifts and flowers.
Gail Eastwood-Ritchey, 49, of Euclid, the child's mother, has been charged with aggravated murder and murder, according to authorities.
"Her reaction was that she had not even thought about this until we brought it up," said Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand. "She had completely put it out of her mind. She always referred to the baby as 'it.' She really had no emotions as far as that's concerned."
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.
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.
All in all, it took hundreds of man hours to complete a DNA profile that would provide leads leading to an arrest in the case. Authorities said that when they executed a search warrant and arrested the woman, 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.
"She gave us a pretty specific area where she had taken the first baby," said Hildenbrand. "That was 30 years ago and there's no evidence there."
A special grand jury was convened Thursday and Ritchey was indicted. Deputies said that Ritchey has shown no remorse about the killing.
"To this day even though she admitted involvement, she shows absolutely no remorse and takes no ownership of the baby. For this reason, the child will rest in the Thompson Township cemetery and will always be known as Geauga's Child," said Hildenbrand.
Ritchey's public Facebook profile is filled with local news stories about police looking for missing children.
She is being held at the Geauga County Jail without bond until her initial court hearing on June 10.