North Carolina Woman Charged For ‘Baby Michael’ Case 21 Years After Newborn Baby Was Found Dead At Roadside

by : Cameron Frew on : 22 Feb 2020 14:22

Warning: Contains Upsetting Content 


On March 3, 1999, ‘Baby Michael’s’ body was found in a plastic bag on the side of the road. Nearly 21 years later, police have found his killer – his own mother. 


Investigators used DNA evidence to track down Deborah Riddle O’Conner, 54, who was charged with first-degree murder on Thursday, February 20, and is being held without bond in the Cumberland County jail.

After North Carolina Police drove to Burke County to speak with O’Conner, she finally admitted she was the mother and was responsible for the horrific death of her child.

Deborah Riddle O'Conner Baby Michael CaseCumberland County Sheriff's Office

A soldier found ‘Baby Michael’s’ lifeless body in a plastic bag on Canady Pond Road. He initially suspected it was a doll, but quickly realised the horrible truth.


Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office investigators determined that ‘Baby Michael’ – named after the Patron Saint of Law Enforcement Officers – was less than 24 hours old when he died of blunt force trauma, after being thrown out of a moving car.

‘Baby Michael’ still had his his umbilical cord attached, with the mum’s placenta also in the bag. He was later laid to rest in a church cemetery.

The police’s appeal for information at the time yielded little results, meaning the trail went cold for years.

Deborah Riddle O'Conner Baby Michael CaseWRAL

That was until investigators sent DNA from the evidence to Bode Technology, a Virginia firm that specialises in forensic genealogy services. From this, a pool of suspects was assembled, which eventually led to O’Conner.

In November 2019, O’Conner posted on Facebook: ‘You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later, the mask will slip and your true face will be known.’ At a press conference on Friday morning, February 21, Lt. Adam Farnham said: ‘I believe she knew this day was probably coming.’

Sheriffs In Deborah Riddle O'Conner Baby Michael CaseWRAL

As per WRAL, Sheriff Ennis Wright said: 


This event, what happened, is going to affect a lot of folks. It’s going to affect two families. In life, a lot of times we have options. We have choices we can make, and you hope that sometimes you would make the right choice. But in this situation, the right choice wasn’t made.

This was something personal to this sheriff’s office – very personal – and [investigators] weren’t going to stop until we got it solved. What affects law enforcement is [crimes against] the young and the elderly because a lot of those folks can’t defend themselves. We’re here to defend them.

O’Conner’s husband – who she’s been married to for 10 years – said he wasn’t aware of the case until officers showed up at their door. ‘I’ve had spells. I’ve had spells crying. I haven’t slept all night,’ he told WSOC.

Her motives for killing the baby have not been disclosed, nor have any statements she made to investigators.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: News, Baby, Murder, North Carolina


WRAL and 1 other
  1. WRAL

    21 years after 'Baby Michael' found dead, Cumberland authorities arrest mother

  2. WSOC

    21 years after ‘Baby Michael’ found dead in trash bag, DNA leads to woman’s arrest