CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. — A Burke County woman has been charged with the murder of a baby who was found dead in a trash bag in 1999.

Deborah Riddle O’Conner, 54, of Burke County, was charged with first-degree murder, according to a Thursday press release from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

The charge comes after a soldier driving along Canady Pond Road in southern Cumberland County saw a bag with what appeared to be a doll inside it on March 3, 1999, the release said.

Instead, a baby boy who wasn’t even 24 hours old with his umbilical cord still attached was inside the bag, the release said. Detectives determined the baby died of blunt force trauma.

Moose Butler, sheriff at the time, pleaded for the parents to come forward, but no one ever did, the release said.

Butler didn’t want the baby to be buried without a name, so he was called “Baby Michael,” the release said. He was named after Michael, the Patron Saint of Law Enforcement Officers.

A funeral service was held March 30, 1999, at Hair’s Chapel Free Will Holiness Church on Duck Pond Road, the release said. Baby Michael was buried in the church cemetery.

Detectives never gave up on solving the case, and Baby Michael’s DNA was sent to Bode Technology, a company that specializes in forensic genealogy services, for comparison.

The company was able to determine a family line, and detectives had to determine the suspect.

With just 12 days until the 21st anniversary of finding Baby Michael, detectives drove to Burke County to interview O’Conner, who they felt was likely Michael’s mother, the release said.

During the interview, O’Conner admitted to detectives that she was Michael’s mother. She was taken into custody and brought to Cumberland County, the release said.

O’Conner received no bond for the murder charge. She is being held at the Cumberland County Detention Center and will have her first court appearance Friday at 2:30 p.m.

More information will be published as it becomes available.

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