‘Baby Theresa’ cold case resolved after 13 years, authorities say

Authorities in Wisconsin say they’ve cracked a 13-year-old cold case involving the death of a newborn girl.

DNA samples from the newborn and advances in forensic science helped authorities find the girl’s mother and charge her with concealing the death of a child, Dodge County Sheriff Dale J. Schmidt said during a press conference on Friday.

Karin Luttinen, 45, of Milwaukee, is being accused of abandoning her baby’s body inside a trash bag on the side of a road near the town of Theresa on April 29, 2009, according to the sheriff’s office.

A county medical examiner performed an autopsy on the body two days later and determined the baby may have died prior to, or during birth.

At the time, investigators working on identifying anyone related to the baby named her “Baby Theresa” after the community closest to where she was found.

After authorities were unable to find anyone related to “Baby Theresa,” she was laid to rest on May 11, 2009. While no family was present at her burial, community members showed up to the Lowell Cemetery in southwest Dodge County to pay their respects, Schmidt said in a statement.

In 2014, authorities filed a charge against the then-unknown mother’s DNA profile to prevent a six-year statute of limitations for the charges to runout, effectively allowing them to prosecute Luttinen now.

Authorities successfully identified Luttinen, and her partner, as the baby’s parents last year.

Investigators who spoke with Luttinen on March 2021 said she was in denial when she gave birth to the baby at home, so she put the newborn’s body in a garbage bag and drove “aimlessly” on what was then U.S. Highway 41, according to the criminal complaint.

Luttinen then left the bag with the baby’s body in a wooded area she had found, according to the criminal complaint.

“As the District Attorney explained, this case involves the death of a stillborn child, which is always a tragedy for the parents involved,” Aneeq Ahmad, Luttinen’s attorney, told NBC News in a statement Saturday. “Further facts about the case will come to light over the course of the legal process.”

Luttinen made an initial court appearance Friday and posted a $2,500 cash bond.

“Due to the ethical rules that govern attorneys’ statements while an active case is pending, I am limited in what I can say on behalf of Ms. Luttinen,” Ahmad said. “As every person is presumed innocent under the law, I would ask that the community respect Ms. Luttinen’s privacy in the meantime.”

Courtney Brogle and The Associated Press contributed.

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