CHARDON, Ohio (WJW)– The woman who dumped her newborn baby in Geauga County in 1993 was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility of parole after 15 years.
A jury found Gail Eastwood Ritchey, 52, guilty of murder and not guilty of aggravated murder after a week-long trial that ended last month. The sentence was dictated by state law.
Ritchey was arrested in 2019 in the cold case death of the baby known as “Geauga’s Child.”
Instead of simply handing down the sentence, Judge David Ondrey said people of Thompson Township who raised money for baby’s burial were owned more.
“There are, according to you, two infants who have been tossed away because you couldn’t face your problems and fears as a young woman and find a proper solution. That is indeed monstrous behavior and you, therefore, deserve this long prison sentence,” Ondrey said.
“Your wrongful efforts to conceal what happened in February 1993 did you buy 29 years of normal life where you got the chance to get married, raise children and do some good work. But ultimately you gained that time on the back of a helpless infant, whose body you concealed in the woods. Ironically, Geauga’s Child did more for you than you ever did for him.”
Ritchey did not make a statement at the hearing and her attorney said they plan to appeal. The family’s longtime pastor did speak on her behalf.
“I always found Gail to be kind, loving and patient mother,” said Pastor Gene McAfee from Faith United Church of Christ. “Deeply religious, Gail has sought to conduct her life according to the dictates of her genuine Christian faith. And she and Mark raised their children with the best values they could find and pass on.”
Two women delivering newspapers found the newborn dead in Thompson Township on March 25, 1993. He was mauled by animals. Ritchey was 22 at the time.
Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Kent Harshbarger, who took the stand during the trial, said he was unable to determine if the baby was born alive, but said there was evidence of a full-term pregnancy.
The Geauga County Sheriff’s Office linked Ritchey to the case through DNA from the baby’s tooth bud.
During an interview with investigators, Ritchey said she gave birth to the baby on the toilet, put him in a bag and put him in the trunk of her car.
“I took the bag out of the trunk, and I laid it in the woods,” said Ritchey, who admitted not knowing the gender of the baby. “I don’t remember it making any noise.”
She told detectives she was worried about what her family would think of her being pregnant and unmarried. Ritchey ended up marrying the newborn’s father and together they have three adult children.
In a recorded interview not played for jurors, Ritchey admitted giving birth to another baby, putting them in a garbage bag and dumping the bag in a field along Brush Avenue in Euclid.