A woman charged in the 1992 case of “Baby April” pleaded guilty on Monday to a lesser charge in connection with the infamous death of the newborn. Appearing in Rock Island County Circuit Court, Angela R. Siebke, 48, formally entered an open plea of guilty to one count of endangering the life of a child resulting in death, a Class 3 felony, local ABC affiliate WQAD reported.
The open plea means prosecutors can still seek the maximum Class 3 penalty of up to 10 years in prison for Siebke, who had initially been charged with first-degree murder in the newborn’s death.
Court documents reportedly obtained by the station said Siebke admitted that, after giving birth, she put newborn Baby April in a trash bag, causing her death nearly 30 years ago.
Baby April’s body was discovered on April 11, 1992 when a man walking his dog along the Mississippi River in Moline, Illinois noticed a trash bag floating in the water. He retrieved the bag, pulled it onto the riverbank, and opened it to find the newborn’s remains inside.
Officers with the Moline Police Department responded to the scene and investigators took DNA samples, but ultimately lacked the technology to make much progress in the investigation. An autopsy performed on the infant’s remains reportedly determined that the cause of death was suffocation asphyxiation and hypothermia.
Investigators got a break in the case when they retested some of the original samples in 2014 and were able to identify a female DNA profile connected to the crime scene evidence.
Then-Rock Island County State’s Attorney John McGehee in December 2014 announced that prosecutors had filed a first-degree murder charge against the unknown female DNA profile, which is allowable under Illinois law, Davenport NBC affiliate KWQC-TV reported.
Investigators reportedly worked with technicians at Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based company that specializes in providing phenotyping services to law enforcement agencies, and were able to identify Siebke as the unknown female suspect. She would have been 19 years old at the time of the newborn’s death.
According to KWQC, detectives with the Moline Police Department then traveled to Siebke’s home in Ohio and served her with a warrant for a sample of her DNA, which matched the sample found at the crime scene. Siebke was reportedly taken into custody by police while staying at a family member’s home in Rock Island on Dec. 17, 2020 and held on $1 million bond.
In a motion filed by Siebke’s attorney seeking to lower her bond, an expert witness was reportedly quoted as saying it was impossible to determine if Baby April had been born alive “within a reasonable degree of scientific certainty” because the doctors who performed her autopsy did not examine the infant’s mastoid air sacs, WQAD reported.
Rock Island County State’s Attorney Dora Villarreal reportedly responded with testimony from a defense expert who stated that the cause of the child’s death was exposure to cold and asphyxia due to infanticide “after the presence of air was found in the newborn girl’s lungs in a float test.”
“This report does not contradict the state’s initial medial reports, but instead presents additional arguments for the trier of fact in the case to determine at trial,” Villarreal reportedly wrote in the response motion.
[image via Moline Police Department]
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