Caroline Riley Propes sentenced 23 years after leaving newborn baby in a cooler by the side of a road only for the day old infant girl to die.
Why didn’t one teen girl simply leave her newborn infant with legally sanctioned venues without fear of legal culpability?
A Georgia woman on Friday was sentenced to more than two decades jail after admitting earlier in the week of ditching hew newborn daughter by the side of the road, only for the child to be later be found dead.
Caroline Riley Propes was sentenced to 23 years in prison for killing Eliza Jane Warner by placing the infant—only days old at the time—in a travel cooler which she zipped shut and abandoned by the side of the road in December, 2019, WXIA-TV reported. The sentence also includes seven years of probation following the defendant’s release from prison.
Propes on Wednesday pleaded guilty to one count each of second-degree murder and second-degree child cruelty after her defense team reached a deal with prosecutors resulting in multiple charges being dismissed.
The child’s remains were initially discovered Jan. 6, 2019 on the side of Boy Scout Road in Troup County by a man who called 911 and told the dispatcher he nearly had a heart attack.
Breakthrough in identity of mother identity via DNA testing
‘So I was at the club. So I seen what was in this book bag—and it’s a baby in here, man,’ the caller said.
‘A baby?’ the dispatcher responds.
‘It’s a dead baby,’ the man said. ‘It’s a dead baby, yes. I’m right here where the baby at now. Yeah, I’m about to have a heart attack.’
The cooler which contained the dead infant was designed to look like a watermelon.
Witnesses told investigators that the cooler had been sitting by the roadside for approximately a week. An autopsy was conducted on the child’s remains, and it was determined that the little girl died of asphyxiation.
Following the morbid discovery, it took more than 14 months of investigation before detectives with the Troup County Sheriff’s Office were able to make an arrest.
The breakthrough in the case came when investigators sent a sample of the child’s DNA to DNA Solutions, a private lab in Oklahoma City that specializes in human genetic testing, for forensic analysis. Those results were then passed along to Innovative Forensic DNA, a Virginia-based lab that was tasked with performing ‘investigative genetic genealogy research,’ which concluded that a then-17-year-old Propes was the mother of the deceased child.
Safe Haven Law
Sheriff’s deputies arrested Propes in March 2020 and charged her with seven felonies, including malice murder, felony murder, first-degree child cruelty, and aggravated assault. Sheriff James Woodruff said Propes told investigators that she put the newborn in the brightly colored cooler hoping it would draw attention from passersby.
“She panicked and put the baby in the cooler, to bring it down there in hopes that somebody would see the cooler, stop, pick it up, and take it home with them,” Sheriff James Woodruff told The LeGrange Daily News.
The sheriff reportedly said that Propes used the cooler to keep the baby warm but did not realize that it was air-tight when zipped shut, which resulted in the infant suffocating to death.
‘It was too late when someone found it,’ Woodruff said.
Investigators determined that the Propes gave birth to the child on Dec. 28, 2019. Woodruff said she was living with her parents at the time but managed to have the baby in secret. The teen abandoned her newborn in the cooler shortly after giving birth.
Georgia’s safe haven law allow mothers to leave unwanted infants in safe locations (such as a church, fire station, police station) without fear of legal repercussions. Not immediately clear is why Propes hadn’t elected to leave her newborn, with no questions asked, with a designed entity.