DNA, genealogy lead to mom of newborn girl left to freeze in Maine gravel pit in 1985

FRENCHVILLE, Maine — Armand and Lorraine Pelletier were stunned one December morning in 1985 when their Siberian Husky, Paca, dropped the frozen body of a newborn girl on the doorstep of their home in Frenchville, Maine.

For more than 36 years, Pelletier, his wife and the entire community were haunted by the death of “Baby Jane Doe,” who authorities discovered had been born in a nearby gravel pit and left to die, cold and alone. Who was the girl’s mother? Why was the baby abandoned?

Maine State Police officials announced Tuesday that they had answered at least one of those questions with the arrest of Lee Ann Daigle, 58, of Lowell, Massachusetts. According to cold case detectives, Daigle has been identified through DNA and genetic genealogy as the infant’s mother.

Daigle, whose name at the time was Lee Ann Guerette, would have been 21 years old when she gave birth. She was arrested without incident outside her home and quickly waived extradition to be brought back to Maine to face a murder charge.

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“Never, ever, ever did I dream even with DNA that they would find the mother,” Lorraine Pelletier told the Bangor Daily News. “It was so long ago.”

It was the morning of Dec. 7, 1985, when Paca took home the newborn’s body, to which the umbilical cord was still attached. According to police officials, the dog had carried and dragged the girl less than 700 feet to the Pelletiers’ home.

Armand Pelletier, who found the body outside his home around 10 a.m. that day, told police the girl had not been there two hours earlier.

“I couldn’t believe it at first,” Armand Pelletier told Portland’s CBS 13 in 1985. “At first I thought it was just a little doll.”

Watch CBS 13′s 2015 report on the case below.

Decades later, Pelletier would tell the news station details he recalled about the girl, including her “reddish blonde” hair.

“State Police detectives were able to track the dog’s path back to the location where the investigation showed Baby Jane Doe was born, and then abandoned, in below zero temperatures at a gravel pit,” authorities said in a news release.

A considerable amount of blood was found at a spot in the gravel pit, leading investigators to believe that’s where the girl was born. A human placenta was found in the road leading to the pit.

The girl’s autopsy determined she was born full term and healthy. Her cause of death was exposure to the cold, with temperatures recorded at 30 degrees below zero the day she was born.

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Retired state Trooper Jim Madore told CBS 13 in 2015 that the child stood little chance against the elements.

“(She) couldn’t have survived long, as brutally cold as it was,” Madore said. “You know, 20-30 minutes, maybe, at the most.”

A Daily News article published two days after the grisly discovery stated that authorities were searching for a couple that could have been connected to the case. CBS 13 reported that the couple was located and cleared of any involvement in the girl’s birth or death.

The case went cold and stayed that way until Maine State Police investigators turned to the burgeoning field of genetic genealogy. They did not elaborate on how the infant’s mother was traced.

Lorraine Pelletier wiped away tears in 2015 as she explained to a CBS 13 reporter that she often thought of the slain child. The Pelletiers were never able to have children of their own.

She mused on the possibility that, if the baby girl had lived, she and her husband could have sought to adopt her.

After learning this week that the newborn’s mother had been found, she said she was angry at Daigle, but trying hard not to hold onto those feelings.

“She was scared, and it just breaks my heart she never rang our doorbell and never asked for help,” Pelletier told the Daily News. “We think about it every day. It just never goes away.”

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Pelletier said she wants to ask Daigle a simple question: Why?

“Why leave a baby in the gravel pit?” she said. “Why not come to our house and say you had just had a baby and needed help? We would have taken that baby and helped her in any way we could.”

Maine State Police Lt. Jeffrey Love said Tuesday that it is a relief to bring some closure to the case. Love said that Daigle’s arrest is the culmination of decades of hard work by dozens of retired and current detectives, all of whom refused to give up on Baby Jane Doe.

Watch News Center Maine’s report on the case below.

That includes someone close to him. Love, who heads the department’s unsolved crime unit, is the son of Sgt. Charles Love, who was one of the initial investigators on the case.

“My hero started the case, and now I get to help — a very small piece — to help bring closure. He’s excited to say the least,” Love said of his father. “He remembers these cases as all the retired detectives do.

“We’ve had several successes with these unsolved cases, and we’ll have several more.”