Dead Ill. Child’s Mom Said Known
POPLAR GROVE, Ill. (AP) _ In 1996, a newborn baby was found dead on a back porch in the near-freezing cold. The people of this little farming town gave the unidentified child a name _ Angelica Faith _ and a proper burial.
Now, more than three years later, investigators say the child’s mother was the girl next door _ and her unknowing parents were among those who helped bury the baby.
Authorities say Kelli Moye, now 19, had carried the secret until her parents found out last weekend and made an agonizing call to police.
``That was their granddaughter,″ Master Sgt. Phil Beu of the Boone County Sheriff’s department said.
Ms. Moye, looking tired and emotionless, was arrested Monday on a charge of first-degree murder at her parents’ home in Poplar Grove, a town of 750 people 70 miles northwest of Chicago.
Investigators say she told them how, as a petite high school freshman, she wore baggy clothes to hide her pregnancy and gave birth to the 7-pound baby in February 1996 in her upstairs bedroom while her parents slept below.
Beu said Ms. Moye then bathed the baby, dressed her in pajamas, wrapped her in a towel and left her on the back steps of the house next door with part of her umbilical cord still attached. Investigators believe the baby then died of exposure.
A few days later, Ms. Moye attended the funeral with her parents at a church a few blocks from their house. But she said nothing _ not to friends, teachers, her parents or even police, who questioned her and several other people who lived and worked on the street of modest two-story homes, a corner grocery, a bank and several feed elevators.
Ms. Moye would later tell investigators that only the baby’s alleged father, Michael Mirshak, knew what she had done. But he, too, said nothing.
Months passed, then years, with investigators making little progress. DNA tests cleared one suspect _ the girlfriend of a man who had lived in the house where the baby was left. Other tips trickled in _ a sighting of a teen-age couple with a baby near the house _ but nothing panned out.
The phone call from Ms. Moye’s parents came on Sunday, after a fight earlier that day between Ms. Moye and Mirshak, who had been sharing an apartment just outside Rockford.
According to Ms. Moye’s account, Mirshak struck her in the face and head. When she threatened to call police, he said he would tell them about the baby. She decided to keep quiet but took refuge at the home of her parents, who asked about bruises on her face, Beu said.
``I think from that point, everything just escalated and took off from there,″ Beu said. Ms. Moye told her parents about the fight, and then the baby, he said.
Mirshak, 20, was arrested Tuesday on a domestic battery charge. Beu said investigators are trying to determine if he was involved in the baby’s death, though Ms. Moye has supposedly told police he wasn’t.
Mirshak, who was released on $5,000 bail, has had his phone disconnected and could not be reached for comment.
Ms. Moye was jailed on $500,000 bail and could get up to life in prison. Her parents’ number is unlisted, and they did not reply to a written message left at their home.
Her public defender, Azhar Minhas, said Ms. Moye would plead innocent. He declined to discuss the specifics of the case but said it’s too early to determine whether his client truly confessed.
Some in the community say they understand how a 15-year-old might be afraid to tell her parents about a pregnancy, but they are frustrated that the baby’s parents’ apparently never sought help.
``It’s just a tragedy. We had so many people who said, `We wish we could have taken the baby and adopted her,‴ said Virginia Dimond, a pastoral assistant at Poplar Grove United Methodist Church, where the funeral was held. ``So many people would’ve gladly helped.″
But even if Ms. Moye’s story is true _ DNA tests are being done to confirm the parents’ identities _ some say they will always wonder what could have possessed someone to leave a baby to die on that cold day.
``I’m not sure we’ll ever know,″ said Tina Gamlin, who donated the baby’s headstone. ``I think she doesn’t even know why.″