A Seattle woman has been arrested over the cold case death of her newborn baby in 1997 after genealogy sleuths who helped capture Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo matched her DNA through an ancestry website.
The body of an unidentified newborn, dubbed Baby Boy Doe by officials, was found in a gas station trash can in 1997, but the case went unsolved for 23 years.
But a DNA breakthrough by genealogy experts who helped catch DeAngelo in 2018 has now identified Christine Marie Warren as the child’s mother, and she was arrested in Seattle last week.
Warren, 50, appeared in King County District Court in Washington state on Friday charged with second degree murder of her infant child.
Authorities say Warren confessed to giving birth in the gas station bathroom, before abandoning the baby’s body in a trash can, according to court documents obtained by Q13 FOX.
Experts were able to match a sample taken from a bloodclot in the baby’s placenta to a genealogy website, leading them to Warren.
Warren, who was 27 in 1997, was seen on security camera footage leaving the Chevron gas station after giving birth to the child
Surveillance footage captures Christine Warren in 1997 emerging from the gas station restroom having just given birth to Baby Boy Doe
The Shell gas station in Lake City, Seattle, where Christine Warren left her infant son in 1997
Warren, who was 27 in 1997, was seen on security camera footage leaving the Chevron gas station after giving birth to the child.
When she was arrested, police say Warren told them she had baby in the bathroom after keeping her pregnancy a secret from friends and family.
She said she dropped the newborn in the toilet where he remained for several minutes, Q13 FOX reported.
Police say she then panicked and put the baby in the trashcan. His body was found 20 hours later.
Detectives later confirmed the boy was alive when it was born. They surmised his body was likely only found due to the trash liner being made of a clear, see-through plastic.
The 1997 cold case was reopened by Seattle detectives in 2018, hopeful that advances in forensics would lead to a breakthrough in the case.
They sent the preserved DNA sample to a private laboratory in Oklahoma City.
Scientists there completed genotyping, a process that involves determining the individual’s DNA sequence and comparing it to other samples.
The child’s full DNA profile was then entered into GEDmatch, a genealogy website which was also used by law enforcement to catch Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo in 2018.
Police were able to generate a list of people with possible ties to the sample.
Genealogist Barbara Rae-Venter of Monterey, California, whose tireless work helped to crack the GSK case, led a group of experts to develop a DNA profile for the mother, the Associated Press reported.
Joseph DeAngelo the Golden State Killer was captured in 2018 through a DNA match on the Gedmatch ancestry database after terrorizing California for more than two decades
Warren leaves the gas station in Lake City, Seattle after giving birth to a baby boy
A possible match to the infant was detected in March 2019. Further analysis showed the sample was likely from a close relative of the baby’s mother.
Then a year later in March 2020, investigators received a direct hit: their suspect had voluntarily entered her DNA on Gedmatch, and crucially chose not to make her data private.
Detectives from the Seattle Police Department identified Warren as their prime suspect, and noticed she appeared similar to the woman in gas station surveillance video.
In November last year, detectives sent Warren a gift card with an invitation to participate in a flavored-water beverage survey for a fictional product called Sparkling Icy.
Warren returned the survey, and police used saliva taken from the envelope’s seal to extract DNA.
This was found to be an exact match to the DNA found on the child’s placenta from 23 years ealier.
Court documents show Warren allegedly confessed to leaving her baby at the gas station, Q13 FOX reported.
She has been charged with second degree murder and has been released on bail of $10,000.
Baby Boy Doe was laid to rest in North Seattle’s Calvary Cemetery, in a funeral attended by about 50 local residents
‘This case was investigated by several generations of detectives covering multiple decades,’ Detective Rolf Norton, a cold case detective with the Seattle Police Department, told KIRO7.
Norton told the station the charges being brought were largely due to the ‘foundation of evidence’ that the original investigating officers had laid.
There were no celebration for police, he said, adding that it was an incredibly sad case for all involved.
Baby Boy Doe was laid to rest in North Seattle’s Calvary Cemetery, in a funeral attended by about 50 local residents.
An inscription in the infant’s headstone read “We Care,” along with the image of a teddy bear.
Speaking at his funeral in 1998, now-retired Seattle detective Kevin O’Keefe told Q13 FOX: ‘This little guy didn’t have a chance in the world. We weren’t going to dispose of him like he was disposed of in that gas station.’
Genealogist Barbara Rae-Venter was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the Year in 2019 for her work which led to the capture of the Golden State Killer
Therese Jensen, who bought a stuffed toy for the baby at the ceremony in 1998, broke down in tears as she told Q13 FOX she wanted to understand why Warren had left the baby to die.
‘I don’t want to judge you, I just want to understand why,’ she told the local broadcaster.
Court records obtained by DailyMail.com show Warren’s only previous arrest was for a DUI in 2007.
Michelle Oberman, a law professor at Santa Clara University in California, told the Associated Press that neonaticide, the term to describe the killing of a baby within the first day of life, is generally not a deliberate, premeditated crime.
Oberman added that mothers who abandon their babies tend to be ‘socially isolated, marginalized and vulnerable women who find themselves paralyzed in the face of pregnancy.’
‘My sense is these cases look a lot like manslaughter,’ Oberman told the Associated Press.
‘I believe the taking of a human life necessitates a criminal-justice response, but I think the over-prosecution of these cases with the highest possible charges is irresponsible.’
Rae-Venter, a retired patent attorney from California turned star genealogist, became an unlikely heroine of the Golden State Killer case after trying to help a cousin locate his biological father in 2012.
Using her background as a trained biologist, she began working on cold cases through ancestry websites, and by 2018 she was working with law enforcement on 50 active cases.
Advances in DNA profiling have led to the arrest of hundreds of cold case suspects in the United States over the past two decades.
Golden State Killer DeAngelo was sentenced to life in prison in August 2020 for a string of murders and rapes in the 1970s and 80s that were solved through the use of public genealogy websites.
DeAngelo in June pleaded guilty to 13 counts of murder and 13 counts of kidnapping that occurred between 1975 and 1986.
He also confessed to 161 other crimes – many of which were rapes – that he couldn’t be charged for because they took place outside the statute of limitations.
DeAngelo is wheeled into the Sacramento County Courthouse in Sacramento in August 2020 to hear victim impact statements from his survivors of his reign of terror
Prosecutors called his more than decade-long spate of crimes ‘simply staggering,’ encompassing 87 victims at 53 separate crime scenes spanning 11 California counties.
To finally identify and arrest him in 2018, investigators pioneered a new method of DNA tracing that involves building a family tree from publicly accessible genealogy websites to narrow the list of suspects.
They linked nearly 40-year-old DNA from crime scenes to a distant relative, and eventually to a discarded tissue they surreptitiously sneaked from DeAngelo’s garbage can in suburban Sacramento.