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Crime News Family Crimes

DNA Collected From Phony Mail Survey Leads To Arrest Of Woman Who Allegedly Left Newborn In Trash Decades Ago

Christine Warren unknowingly provided her DNA to detectives investigating her for the 23-year-old death of a newborn, who was left to die in a gas station bathroom.

By Dorian Geiger
How To Use DNA To Crack A Case

A Washington woman who allegedly gave birth in a gas station and left her baby in the restroom garbage more than two decades ago was arrested this month for the newborn’s murder. 

Christine Warren, 50, was taken into custody after detectives collected her DNA from a phony mail-in survey, which matched a “placental blood clot” found on the dead child, officials announced. 

In November 2020, investigators sent Warren a survey from a fake beverage company using a P.O. box address they’d rented. She participated — and sent an envelope back that contained enough of her DNA to provide a match to the forensics originally taken by police.

“That little baby that didn’t have a chance,” Seattle Police Det. Patrick Michaud told Oxygen.com. “It’s about finding justice for that victim.”

Warren was arrested on March 11 on homicide charges.

Seattle Woman Pd

Warren delivered the child in the bathroom of a Lake City Chevron station shortly before midnight on Nov. 18, 1997, according to a probable cause statement obtained by Oxygen.com. Surveillance footage allegedly captured her entering the convenience store around 11:20 p.m. About 14 minutes later, Warren was seen leaving the business with clothing wrapped around her wrist. 

An attendant ultimately found the dead child in the “bottom of [a] clear plastic trash liner,” the probable cause statement alleged. Detectives also learned a separate clerk had cleaned up much of the blood that had been “smeared” across the bathroom after the gas station birth.

A witness, who recalled hearing a baby whimper in the bathroom around the same time, told detectives she’d seen the woman from the surveillance footage go directly to the restroom after entering the convenience store. 

A medical examiner later concluded the child had been born alive.

For years, investigators sought the woman’s identity. The forensic evidence collected from the convenience store bathroom also sat idle in the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab’s database for more than two decades. In 2018, the case file was reopened. Investigators uploaded the DNA to a public genealogy website, which led investigators to Warren.

“It’s absolutely amazing that our detectives, even though a case has been sitting for this long, they don’t give up and will use every method that we have at the time,” Michaud added. “If we can’t solve it at that point we’re going to continue finding new methods to come to some sort of resolution to this because it’s not about us. It’s really about that single person, that victim.”

Michaud declined to comment on how investigators specifically harvested DNA from the mail-in survey they sent Warren.

Under questioning this month, Warren allegedly confessed she was the woman spotted in the CCTV recording. She told detectives that in November 1997, she’d been traveling with a friend on the highway when she got cramps. After stopping and giving birth, she said she “panicked” and discarded the child in the trash. The 50-year-old allegedly said she didn’t think the child was alive, although she admitted she also didn’t check his vital signs, according to the probable cause statement. 

Warren also told law enforcement the child’s father was reluctant to raise a child with her, the Seattle Times reported. She reportedly didn’t disclose the unplanned pregnancy to anyone or seek prenatal medical assistance. 

Infant homicide, within the first day of birth, is typically an impulsive act, and one that’s not purposeful or premeditated, some neonaticide experts said. They cautioned against rushing to judgement ahead of Warren’s trial.

“[They’re] socially isolated, marginalized and vulnerable women who find themselves paralyzed in the face of pregnancy,” Michelle Oberman, a law professor at Santa Clara University, told the Seattle Times.

Warren was booked into a King County detention center on a $10,000 bail earlier this month. She posted bail and was released on Monday, according to jail officials. Her arraignment is scheduled for March 29. It’s unclear if Warren has retained legal representation. She faces a maximum of more than 18 years in prison if convicted.

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