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Police identify mother of newborn left to freeze to death 32 years ago

Dave Altimari and Steven Goode, The Hartford Courant on

Published in News & Features

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Meriden, Conn., police have identified the mother of a newborn boy left to freeze death in a parking lot 32 years ago.

Police Chief Jeffry Cosette said the baby's mother is Karen Roche, who was 25 at the time she abandoned the boy and still lives in the city.

Detectives spoke with her on Jan. 2 and she admitted to being the boy's mother. A DNA test taken last week confirmed it.

Cosette said Roche is not expected to face charges in connection with the death of the baby, who was given the name David Paul by local clergy, because the statute of limitations had expired and it would be difficult to prove intent for murder.

Cossette said that they believe that baby was left in parking lot on Dec. 28 and wasn't found until Jan. 2. There is record of a call to volunteer fire department on Dec. 28 that there's "something in the parking lot."

Police did not identify the father Tuesday but do not believe that "he knew anything."

The department identified the mother through the use of genetic DNA testing with help from a group called IdentiFinders International.

The California-based company specializes in trying to identify unidentified victims from older cases where sometimes it is difficult to obtain DNA.

Meriden police sent 13 pieces of evidence to the FBI's crime lab in Quantico, Va., for DNA analysis in 2001. Among those items were the pink and white blankets that David Paul was found wrapped in when his frozen body was found in a parking lot on Evansville Avenue.

Investigators long suspected that the mother's DNA also was on the blankets.

The DNA evidence recovered from the blankets was used to do the new cutting-edge genetic DNA testing that police have used to solve many cases, most famously the Golden State Serial Killer, but are now also using to try and identify long unidentified victims or remains.

IdentiFinders International is one of two companies that Colleen Fitzpatrick is involved with that are trying to assist law enforcement agencies in using the newest DNA technology. They specialize in older cases where DNA is sometimes difficult to obtain. Fitzpatrick said she has met with Meriden police several times over the past five or six years to assist them with the testing and also the genealogy research.

The sun was just coming up on Saturday, Jan. 2, 1988, when Vivian Parks left her home in the Village Lane public housing development in South Meriden to mail a few letters and buy some groceries. It was bitterly cold as Parks wound her way along a wooded path that served as a popular shortcut behind the row houses on Evansville and Baker avenues.

As Parks entered a clearing at the end of the path about 9 a.m., she noticed pink and white blankets nestled against a tree in an empty employee parking lot near AGC Inc., a local manufacturer that was closed for the New Year's holiday.

 

"I thought it was a little doll at first but then I realized it was too big," Parks recalled. "It still makes me sick to think about it."

The baby boy had his tiny hands near his face and frost covered his short blond hair. His umbilical cord still dangled from his stomach, a raw red wound where someone crudely sliced him from the warmth of his mother's womb. His tiny lips were as blue as his eyes.

In the subzero temperatures of a frigid January day, the 71/2-pound boy froze to death in a matter of hours. He was so frozen that the medical examiner had to wait a day for the body to thaw before doing an autopsy. The boy had been born alive and died of exposure.

As publicity spread about the case, donations poured in. The Rev. Ralph Roy, then-pastor of Meriden's First United Methodist Church, named the child David Paul, which means "God's Beloved Little Man."

"She made a huge mistake. She probably thought irrationally that someone would find the baby and save it," Roy said in an interview with the Courant years ago. He has since passed away.

Tammy Hoffman, whose last name was Mazzaccaro at the time of the boy's death, is among those who have been longing for closure for more than three decades.

"He was left literally in my backyard," Hoffman said. "For many years I had that woulda, coulda, shoulda feeling that if I only heard something or saw something. I carried a lot of guilt but finally had to give it back to the person that did this."

Hoffman has attended many of the annual memorial services for the boy, including last year, and said she was getting to the point where she wondered if then-Meriden Police Chief Robert Kosienski, who attends every year, would live long enough to know "we got you."

"There are a lot of police who have that one case," she said. "This is that case for a lot of our officers."

(c)2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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