How ‘Geauga’s Child’, a 26-year-old cold case, was solved by detectives (timeline)
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The mother of “Geauga’s Child” is set to face a judge on Tuesday.
The 26-year-old cold case that gripped Northeast Ohio was finally solved just weeks ago.
The Geauga County Sheriff said Gail Eastwood-Ritchey confessed to abandoning a newborn baby along a country road back in 1993.
March 25, 1993 was a cold, snowy day in Thompson Township.
Two newspaper delivery drivers made a shocking discovery on Sidley Road.
Cheryl Jenkins was one of those drivers.
She was 21 years old at the time.
“I don't know how anyone can do that it's just awful. Wish we could've found it alive. Hope we find who did it,” she said.
A baby boy was dead in the road with his umbilical cord still attached. He was missing an arm and a leg, possibly mauled by animals.
19 News spoke to Jenkins again, 26 years later, after she learned the case was finally solved.
“I always think about him, I’ve never forgotten that day. I mean, it’s burned in my memory, every step of that day,” she said.
The community rallied together as detectives tried to figure out the identity of the baby boy and who left him to die in the bitter winter cold. But as time passed, there were still no answers.
The community held a funeral for the baby and put up a headstone in a cemetery, calling him “Geauga’s Child.”
Ten years passed and detectives were still trying to crack the case using new DNA technology, but after checking a DNA sample against a law enforcement database, nothing turned up.
Another decade went by since “Geauga’s Child” was found and the case still remained a mystery. Residents continued to maintain the baby’s headstone, in hopes of finding answers one day.
Finally, the day everyone had been waiting for: On June 6, the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office announced a break in the case.
“She admitted that she had birthed a child, placed him in a trash bag and left him in a wooded area,” Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand said at a press conference.
Eastwood-Ritchey, the 49-year-old Euclid woman identified as the baby’s mother, was arrested on murder charges.
“Her reaction was that she had not even thought about this until we brought it up. She completely put it out of her mind. She always referred to the baby as an it,” the sheriff said.
So how did detectives finally find her?
Forensics experts started searching genetic DNA in September 2018.
“We started with a 1,400 person family tree and essentially narrowed it down piece-by-piece until we got to the mother,” said Detective Donald Seaman.
We learned Eastwood-Ritchey went on to have her own family since that day in 1993.
She married the father of “Geauga’s Child” and currently has three adult children.
The sheriff said she hid the pregnancy from them, which is why nobody else is facing charges.
“I don’t know how anyone could wake up the next morning after doing something like that, let alone 26 years later, and raise a family and go on like a normal person. I don’t know how you do that,” said Sheriff Hildenbrand.
Closure for the detective on the case
Sgt. Thomas Dewey with Geauga County Sheriff’s Office was the first on the scene. Now, there is closure for him after he spent his career working to solve this case.
He describes his reaction after the sheriff called him with the news.
“I says, ‘Oh my gosh, you’ve got to be kidding me,’” Sgt. Dewey said.
“And I says, "Aww [sic], thank God,'” he said.
Sgt. Dewey retired 14 years ago, but he never forgot “Geauga’s Child.”
“I mean there's some vicious people out there, but this was the vicious of the vicious,” he said.
Suspect in court
Eastwood-Ritchey is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Tuesday at 3 p.m.
She has pleaded not guilty and posted bail. She must wear an ankle monitor.
Eastwood-Ritchey also admitted to a similar crime with a baby born two years before “Geauga’s Child” in Cuyahoga County. That case is still under investigation by Euclid Police.
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