DNA helped police solve a 32-year-old cold case and track down the mother of a newborn boy who was found dead in a Connecticut parking lot in January 1988.
The baby, whom police named David Paul, was found abandoned and frozen to death at the base of a tree in a wooded section of a parking lot in Meriden, about 22 miles southwest of Hartford.
A medical examiner found that the baby, who was a few days old, died from exposure to frigid temperatures, Meriden Police Chief Jeffry W. Cossette said at a news conference on Tuesday.
His mother was identified earlier this month as Karen Kuzmak Roche. No charges are expected in the case because the statute of limitations on manslaughter is 20 years, Cossette said.
Cossette gave credit on solving the case to Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic genealogist consultant who founded Identifinders International, which consults with individuals and law enforcement on genealogical and DNA matters.
Around 2012, investigators with the Meriden police who were working on the David Paul case connected with Fitzpatrick, who agreed to offer her assistance. In 2014, she identified a possible last name for the baby and in 2017, DNA helped authorities find distant relatives of the baby.
Two years later, in 2019, Fitzpatrick used family-tree DNA to help investigators identify female family members who had previously lived in the neighborhood where the baby was found. This new information led detectives to the baby’s mother, police said.
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On Jan. 2, which marked the 32nd anniversary of the death, investigators questioned Roche about the death.
She admitted to abandoning the child, Cossette told reporters.
“Ms. Roche indicated she’d been waiting 32 years for the day in which police would be knocking on her door regarding this incident,” the police chief said.
Roche told detectives that she was 25 when she gave birth and indicated that she was “in a very bad state of mind at the time.” She said she gave birth alone at home and then went to a parking lot two or three blocks away and left the baby under a tree.
Roche told detectives that she then called the fire department to tell them that they needed to look for something in the parking lot, but did not indicate that what they were looking for was a baby, Cossette told reporters.
The baby’s body was not found until days later, on Jan. 2, 1988.
Cossette said Roche had a lot of remorse about what happened and said that if the state’s safe haven law had existed then, she would have taken advantage of it. No one knew, including the baby’s father, that Roche was pregnant.
In Connecticut, a parent is allowed to leave a child with an emergency room nurse without being arrested for abandonment as long as the child is 30 days old or younger.
“She’s been very straightforward with us,” the police chief told reporters. “I think she wanted to get all of this off of her chest.”
Roche still lives in Connecticut and is married. She never had more children, Cossette said.
Cossette said not being able to charge Roche does not take away from the feeling of accomplishment at closing the case.
“The main mission was to find out, not only, who the mother was but why. And we did find out who the mother was,” he said.
NBC News reached out to Roche on Wednesday but did not immediately hear back.