A newborn baby found dead and floating in the ocean off the coast of Florida in 2018 was killed by her mother, who has now been arrested, cops have said.
The mysterious four-and-a-half-year-old case of ‘Baby June’ – who police have said was ‘discarded like a piece of trash’ – had gone cold, with no fruitful leads. The young girl has never been identified.
But on Thursday, Palm Beach County police said they have arrested the girl’s mother using the same genetic genealogy technique that found the ‘Golden State Killer’ in California, who pled guilty in 2020 to multiple murders in the 1970s and 80s.
The technology allowed investigators to identify the girl’s father, who in-turn led them to his ex-girlfriend, 29-year-old Arya Singh. She was arrested on Thursday and will charged with the murder of her baby daughter.
Mystery: The body of ‘Baby June’, seen here in a forensic drawing, was found off the coast of Florida on June 1, 2018. Now, over four years later, police say they have solved the case
‘It was four years ago that I stood in front of these same cameras and asked for the public’s support in trying to figure out what happened and who this unidentified child was,’ Palm Beach County Special Investigations Unit Captain Steven Strivelli said in a press conference on Thursday. ‘I’m very, very happy to announce that today, we have all those questions answered.’
The little body of the infant was spotted floating in the water by an off-duty firefighter on June 1, 2018, around 100 feet off the Boynton Beach Inlet. Police at the time said the firefighter initially mistook the girl for a doll.
Having been found that month, the girl was dubbed ‘Baby June’, and investigators released an image rendered by an artists of how the baby might have looked at birth, in the hope that someone may come forward with a lead.
A $10,000 rewards was offered for any information leading to an arrest in the case, but none of the tips police recieved were helpful, Strivelli said.
Meanwhile, he said investigators searched records of every child born in Palm Beach and Broward counties, but were able to find no information to help the case.
Eventually, Strivelli said the case was handed to the cold case squad.
‘We were starting to look like we were heading towards a dead end,’ Strivelli told reporters. However, the crime lab and cold case team were able to eventually identify the father of the baby girl through a DNA match.
The technology allowed investigators to identify the girl’s father, who in-turn led them to his ex-girlfriend, 29-year-old Arya Singh (pictured). She was arrested on Thursday and will charged with the murder of her baby daughter
Julie Sikorsky, supervisor of the office’s forensic biology unit, said the Sheriff’s office uploaded the newborn’s DNA onto a public database – FamilyTreeDNA – and was able to find a close relative.
‘We rebuilt the family tree and identified the close relatives, and then established the link to our suspect today,’ Sikorsky told reporters during the press conference.
The investigators were eventually able to find a likely father of the newborn, whom they confirmed using DNA testing.
Detective Brittany Christoffel of Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said the father told investigators he had a girlfriend at the time. She had told him she was pregnant, but that she had ‘taken care of it,’ the detective said. ‘He knew nothing about this baby,’ Christoffel said. ‘He was thinking she perhaps had an abortion.’
Detectives were able to get their hands on a ‘covert DNA sample’ of the father’s former girlfriend – a piece of garbage she had discarded – and were able to use this to confirm that she was the mother of the newborn baby, Christoffel told reporters.
Police learned that Singh had been at the inlet on May 30, 2018 – 48 hours before the baby was found in the water nearby. They also found that the mother had searched for and read news articles about the baby’s discovery.
Despite this, ‘she’s never come forward in all this time,’ Christoffel said.
The detective said the baby was already dead when she went into the inlet. Singh told investigators she did not know she was pregnant until she gave birth on May 30 2018, and that she was not sure if the baby was dead or alive at the time.
Christoffel said her investigators had interviewed Singh, as well as several of her friends and family members, and determined that the mother was ‘solely responsible for the baby ending up in the Boynton Beach Inlet’.
Palm Beach County Special Investigations Unit Captain Steven Strivelli speaks during a press conference in which official announced that the mother had been arrested
The newborn baby girl was found 100ft off the Boynton Beach coast by a local firefighter. Pictured: An aerial shot of the area where ‘Baby June’ was found in 2018
Florida’s state attorney for Palm Beach County said Singh was taken into custody on Thursday, and will be charged with first-degree murder.
It was not immediately clear whether Singh had an attorney of her own.
The sheriff’s office said that this cold case was the first time it had used the investigative genetic genealogy, and that it would do so again.
It is believed this is the first time the technology had been used in Florda.
‘It’s a whole new world as far as technology is concerned,’ Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw told the news conference. ‘We had a lot of people at the beginning say, ‘You got nothing, you’ll be lucky if you ever find anybody in this.’
Bradshaw praised his officers, saying that while they are tough, this particular case had taken an emotional toll on them all.
‘The men and women of law enforcement always think they are tough and they have seen it all but I guarantee you when you see a newborn infant floating in the ocean like somebody had discarded like a piece of trash, it tugs at your heart,’ he said.
How law enforcement use popular ancestry websites to track down cold case killers
Investigators across the country have embraced genetic genealogy, a DNA-dependent forensic technique that identifies suspects through their relatives.
The technique involves cross-referencing the DNA profile of an unidentified suspect with public databases containing DNA from users who’ve submitted samples to consumer companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com to explore their family tree and get informed about potential genetic health concerns.
Genetic genealogy gained notoriety through decades-old cold cases like the Golden State Killer, and police are now using it on fresh cases as well.
While many are excited by what genetic genealogy means for the future of forensic investigations, others have expressed concerns about genetic privacy and policy procedures.
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