‘We never give up’ – Cumberland County sheriff addresses arrest in 21-year-old case of Baby Michael

North Carolina

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – The case of “Baby Michael,” a case with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office that has remained unsolved since 1999, is now closed.

On March 3, 1999, the body of a baby less than a day old was found in a plastic bag along a Cumberland County Road. His umbilical cord was still attached when he was found.

No arrest had been made in the baby’s death until now.

Deborah O’Conner (CCSO)

On Friday, members of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office discussed what led to the arrest of 54-year-old Deborah Riddle O’Conner.

“Throughout the years, many hours, long days, long nights were put in this investigation,” Sheriff Ennis Wright said.

DNA evidence recently allowed detectives to identify O’Conner as a suspect.

She was interviewed in Burke County by detectives where she admitted to being Baby Michael’s mother, Wright said.

O’Conner has been charged with first-degree murder. She faces life in prison or the death penalty, the district attorney said.

“At this sheriff’s office – we never give up,” Wright said.

The sheriff said the case of Baby Michael was personal to the sheriff’s office.

“It really bothers me. I take it personal when there are so many avenues we have out there that this young lady could have used at that time,” Wright said.

An investigator said O’Conner knew this day was coming.

O’Conner has children who were born before Baby Michael, the sheriff confirmed.

When asked if there was a motive behind the child’s death, Wright said, “I’m not going to get into that.”

In 1999, a soldier driving along Canady Pond Road spotted the bag and thought a doll was inside.

Baby Michael still had his umbilical cord attached when his body was found.

Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office detectives determined the child died of blunt force trauma.

When no one came forward as the boy’s parents, dubbed him “Baby Michael,” after 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.

Baby Michael was buried in the church cemetery.

Bode Technology used the boy’s DNA to give detectives a family line – which led them to O’Conner.

She is being held without bond and is scheduled to appear in court Friday afternoon.

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