Mom Allegedly Seen on Camera Leaving Newborn in Trash in 1997 Is Charged with Murder After DNA Link
Authorities arrested Christine Warren, 50, after surreptitiously collecting her DNA through a bogus mailing they sent her
The invitation mailed last November to Christine Warren invited her to participate in a survey for a beverage company.
But the company didn't exist -- and when Warren mailed her response back to a post office box that had been rented by detectives, the envelope carried enough of Warren's DNA for detectives to match it to DNA from a placental blood clot on a newborn found dead 24 years ago in a Seattle area gas station trash can.
On March 1 authorities questioned Warren, who police allege admitted to being the newborn's mother and identified herself as the woman seen on surveillance footage at the gas station on Nov. 18, 1997, before an attendant emptying trash later made the discovery.
Warren, now 50, of Seattle, was arrested March 11 and charged with second-degree murder of the infant, who the medical examiner determined had been born alive, according to court documents cited by KING-TV, The Seattle Times and The News-Tribune.
Online records for the King County jail, from which Warren was released Monday after posting $10,000 bail, do not indicate if she has an attorney to represent her. She is scheduled to be arraigned March 29.
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According to the court documents, Warren told investigators the newborn's father had reacted negatively to the unplanned pregnancy, and she did not tell anyone else about it or pursue any medical care while pregnant.
On the night the boy was born, Warren, then 27, was riding in a car when she began to experience cramping, and asked a friend to pull over at a Lake City Chevron station and convenience store, where she gave birth. She was seen on surveillance images entering the store at 11:20 p.m. with an article of clothing wrapped around her waist, and leaving 14 minutes later.
Police were called to the gas station on Nov. 20, 1997, by a clerk who said that when she went to empty the restroom trash container, she discovered the infant's body there inside a plastic trash liner.
Authorities learned that another clerk had earlier cleaned up blood from the restroom. After news of the discovery was made public, a witness came forth who told police that she recalled opening a door for the woman whose image was captured on surveillance as she went straight to the restroom, and later hearing a baby cry.
A medical examiner initially ruled the death of the baby, whose umbilical cord and placenta were still attached, as natural, but revised the finding a month later to homicide, court documents state.
But the search for the mother went nowhere.
In 2018 police began to reconsider the case using DNA from the mother recovered at the scene, and sent those samples to a private lab. The results of DNA genotyping were then uploaded to GEDmatch, a public genealogy website, which allowed an expert to identify individuals with potential biological links to the mother, according to the documents.
Warren's name was added to that list last March. Police who then discovered that Warren lived in the Seattle area also were able to match Warren's physical characteristics with the woman seen in the earlier gas station surveillance video.
That's when they mailed Warren the bogus letter, offering a gift card in exchange for her participation in a flavored-water beverage survey, surreptitiously collecting Warren's DNA. Her sample then matched with DNA taken from the 1997 crime scene.
When questioned, according to the court documents, Warren said she thought the newborn was dead but that she never checked his vital signs before placing the child in the trash can and covering him with garbage.
Charging documents say she faces a sentence of 10 to 18 years in prison if convicted.