The mother of a newborn found dead in a Connecticut dumpster in 1986 was charged with murder on Friday after detectives sifted through her trash last year and used advances in DNA testing to link her to the baby.
Janita M. Phillips, now 62, turned herself in on Friday to police in Florida, where she had lived for more than 30 years since the child was found dead. Because all other applicable charges expired with the statute of limitations, she was charged with murder.
Phillips was 26 years old when she was deemed a person of interest in the infant’s death. The boy’s body was discovered by sanitation workers emptying a dumpster outside her apartment at 27 Havemeyer Place in Greenwich on May 16.
Detectives noticed that towels in Phillips’ apartment that she shared with her husband and then-two-year-old son matched those wrapped around the discarded infant.
However, more substantial evidence was needed to charge the woman with a crime, and the case went cold when she and her husband, Jerry, moved to Lake Mary, Florida, soon after she was interviewed.
Janita M. Phillips (pictured), now 62, turned herself in on Friday to police in Florida, where she had lived for more than 30 years since the child was found dead. Because all other applicable charges expired with the statute of limitations, she was charged with murder
The infant’s corpse was discovered On May 16, 1986 by sanitation workers emptying a dumpster into their truck at 27 Havemeyer Place in Greenwich (pictured), the woman’s apartment building, on May 16
Pictured is a photo of local publication ‘Greenwich Time’ the day after the infant’s corpse was found
Advances in genetic testing allowed police to analyze the bloodied towel and other forensic evidence found with ‘Baby John,’ Deputy Chief Robert Berry said in a Friday press conference.
Then, Greenwich Detective Christy Girardi and a Florida Sheriff’s Deputy were sent to stake out the couple’s trash bins in June of last year.
With a discarded Q-Tip, detectives determined that Phillips was the mother of the long-deceased child. An emptied water bottle established Jerry’s paternity.
Jerry appeared ‘shocked’ when detectives told him of the child’s existence – and its subsequent killing – according to Greenwich Time.
Phillips told police that Jerry had told her he didn’t want any more children after her first birth, and she managed to hide her entire pregnancy from him and their families up until she gave birth in their apartment.
Phillips is pictured in Stamford’s state Superior Court on Friday. Her bail was initially set at $50,000, but she was released, provided that she checks in with the city’s Bail Commissions Officer once per week
She ‘never got big’ during the pregnancy, she told investigators. Until the night she gave birth, she told investigators, she repeatedly thought to herself, ‘this can’t be happening.’
‘I just remember I didn’t plan for this,’ Phillips told police – more than 35 years after she gave birth to the child – according to the affidavit.
She barely handled or looked at the baby in the brief moments after his birth, she said, because that would make the situation ‘real.’
A medical examiner determined shortly after the boy’s body was found that he had been strangled to death.
‘I didn’t want to crash [my husband’s] dreams and fall down the rabbit hole of having a bunch of kids and stuck with bills and not being able to care for them or get to achieve his dreams,’ Phillips, who admitted to the murder, told detectives.
Greenwich Time reported that Janita Phillips was working at Saks Fifth Avenue on Greenwich Avenue at the time, while her husband was working as a fashion designer, suit-maker and custom tailor.
Since 1986, Phillips had maintained a clean criminal record and a ‘stellar life’ with 30 years in the insurance industry, her defense attorney Lindy Urso said.
Since her arrest, however, she has been in a ‘tenuous spot psychologically.’
‘Any way you cut this pie, it’s a very, very tragic situation,’ he said. ‘She’s had to live with this grief for 35 years, and now it’s obviously dredged up again.’
Since 1986, her defense attorney said, Phillips had maintained a clean criminal record and a ‘stellar life’ with 30 years in the insurance industry, her defense attorney Lindy Urso said – since her arrest, however, she has been in a ‘tenuous spot psychologically’
Initially, Phillips was held on a $50,000 bail bond, but she was released on the promise that she would check in with the Bail Commissioner’s Office weekly after her arraignment hearing Friday in Stamford’s state Superior Court.
States Attorney Paul Ferencek supports the decision to release Phillips, saying the state doesn’t view her as a flight risk. He said on Friday that, since the alleged homicide, she has lived a ‘blameless life’ without a criminal record.
‘Today we begin to get closure on the death investigation of an infant child, many years ago,’ Greenwich Police Chief James Heavey said during Friday’s press conference.
‘While today’s arrest will not bring back that child, it does bring recognition that his precious life had meaning, and that he will not be forgotten.’
‘The investigation of his tragic death has taken many long years, but he has always been remembered and we hope this conclusion will bring him peace and recognition.’