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A cold case known as “Geauga’s Child” that has haunted a Northeast Ohio community for more than 26 years appears to have finally been solved.

Since the early 1990s, the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office said it has been working diligently to find the individual or individuals responsible for the death of newborn boy whose partially decomposed body was discovered along Sidley Road in Geauga County. The infant had been mauled by animals and still had its umbilical cord attached.

During a press conference held June 6, the Sheriff’s Office announced it had a suspect in custody, 49-year-old Euclid resident Gail Eastwood-Ritchey, who was arrested that day in Cleveland.

According to Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz, who convened a special grand jury June 6, Eastwood-Ritchey was indicted on one charge of aggravated murder and one charge of murder.

The suspect will be arraigned in Geauga County Court of Common Pleas June 10.

Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand said with the investigation ongoing, the office cannot comment on additional charges.

“An exhaustive investigation began as soon as the baby was found, in March 1993, and continues to this day,” he added. “When the infant was transported to the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office, they confirmed that ‘Baby Doe’ had been born alive, but could not determine how he died.

“Due to the fact that we did not know who the parents were, some great citizens of Geauga County took it upon themselves, using their own money, to provide for a funeral for ‘Geauga’s Child.’ They forever memorialized him in Thompson Township’s Maple Grove Cemetery. To this day, they care for his grave leaving gifts and flowers.”

Hildenbrand noted that deputies followed up on hundreds, if not thousands, of leads over the decades, conducting extensive research and interviews across the world.

“No one rested," he said. "They never gave up, even after they retired, particularly Sgt. Tom Dewey, who was the first law officer to arrive at the scene on Sidley Road after the body had been found by newspaper carriers. People have volunteered to come back and help with this case anytime we asked them to.

“Due to recent developments in DNA and the ability to identify potential family members, the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office and Prosecutor Jim Flaiz’s office teamed up to explore this new technology.”

In September 2018, Geauga County detectives identified distant family members of "Geauga’s Child." Through the process, a family tree was produced consisting of over 1,400 people in an effort to identify the baby’s parents.

The individuals who previously submitted DNA voluntarily to an online database were then narrowed down.

"With their consent, we were able compare their DNA (to one another and) to 'Geauga’s Child,' " Hildenbrand said.

“Later, a search warrant was issued for who we felt was the mother....At that time she admitted that she had birthed a child, placed him in a trash bag and left him in a wooded area. She also admitted to a similar crime that occurred 2 years prior the birth of 'Geauga’s Child.' That case, now, is also currently under investigation.”

Hildenbrand, Flaiz and Geauga County detective Donald Seamon told members of the media that while the suspect is currently married, with three adult children, the father of "Geauga’s Child" is not at the moment being charged with a crime.

“We cannot comment any further,”Flaiz added. “Again, the investigation (into the family) is ongoing.”

Hildenbrand expressed gratitude to all of the employees of the Sheriff’s Office over the last 26 years, adding that the case is the 51st overall in the nation to be solved using the DNA-centered investigative tool.

“I know that solving this case gives peace to not only the deputies, but also to the community and the family of the baby," he said. "This child had no voice so it was this community's duty to give him one. Over 26 years ago, Gail Eastwood-Ritchey left her biological child for dead. To this day, even though she admitted her involvement, she shows absolutely no remorse and takes no ownership of 'Baby Doe.' For this reason, this child will rest in the (Maple Grove) Cemetery and will always be known as 'Geauga’s Child.' "

This article originally ran on news-herald.com.

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