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Mother Charged With Murder 36 Years After Newborn Was Left In Gravel Pit To Die

Lee Ann Daigle was charged with the murder of her newborn baby nearly 40 years ago. Her adult daughter says Daigle thought at the time that the baby was stillborn, and now believes the pregnancy may have been the result of a sexual assault.

By Constance Johnson
A police handout of Lee Ann Daigle

The mother of a newborn baby girl who was abandoned and died in below zero temperatures in a gravel pit in Maine 36 years ago has been charged with her murder.

On Monday, Maine State Police traveled to Lowell, Massachusetts to arrest Lee Ann Daigle, formerly known as Lee Ann Guerette, Maine State Police said in a press release. She was arrested outside her Massachusetts home, waived extradition and was taken back to Maine that same day.

Daigle, 58, had been indicted by an Aroostook grand jury on one count of murder. She appeared in court on Tuesday.

Police said advancements in technology, including DNA and genetic genealogy, allowed them to identify Daigle as the mother of Baby Jane Doe. In an update on Wednesday, they said that Identifinders International was the company that generated the investigative lead which lead them to identify Daigle as the biological mother.

“This case was the culmination of decades worth of investigative work from dozens of now retired and current detectives who never gave up finding answers and justice for Baby Jane Doe,” police said in the release.

Daigle is being held without bail at the Aroostook County Jail in Houlton and has pleaded not guilty.

Police said that Lee Ann Guerette, later Daigle, was 21 years old when she went to a nearby gravel pit in Frenchville, Maine (which is right on the Canadian border), delivered a live baby girl and then left her alone in freezing temperatures on or around Dec. 6, 1985.

The body of Baby Jane Doe was found on Dec. 7, 1985 by a Siberian Husky named Paca, who dragged the newborn's body about 700 feet to the then-home of its owners, Armand and Lorraine Pelletier, police said.

“She kept pounding at the door’s window to get back in,” Armand Pelletier told the Bangor Daily News in 2014. “She kept pounding, and after a while, I went to go look, and I could not believe what I saw. I saw what looked like a little rag doll, but then we saw it was a frozen little baby.”

Detectives were able to track the dog’s path back to the location where Baby Jane Doe was born and then abandoned. The child still had her umbilical cord attached, and investigators were able to determine that her death was unrelated to being carried home by Paca. They also found blood and placental material at the scene.

“It was so cold, just very, very cold,” Maine State Police Maj. Charles Love said of that day to the Daily News in 2014. “I was not the first officer on the scene, but I was one of the earliest."

“Why leave a baby in the gravel pit?” Lorraine Pelletier asked the Daily News this week.  “Why not come to our house and say you had just had a baby and needed help — we would have taken that baby and helped her in any way we could.”

Two years ago, Detective Jay Pelletier — who grew up in the area but is not apparently related to the Pelletiers who discovered the body — was working at the Maine State Police Unsolved Homicide Unit and decided to take up the case, Presque Isle, Maine CBS affiliate WAGM reported.

"Having been from the area, I remember the media coverage initially," he told the station. "With the addition of DNA and genealogy information we felt that this was a case that could be worked on at this time."

Ultimately, they were successful.

Several months ago, police approached Daigle’s ex-husband, John Daigle, and asked him if Lee Ann Guerette had been pregnant when they met in the summer of 1985, the Press Herald reported.

He was then a 23-year-old college student, and the two met at a July Fourth celebration — five months before she gave birth.

As summer turned to fall, Guerette met Daigle’s parents and they all celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday together, he told the Press Herald.

He said no one said or knew anything about a pregnancy.       

“My mother didn’t mention it,” Daigle told the Press Herald. “Lee’s mother didn’t mention it.”

He was stunned when police told him about the baby.

“I fell to the floor,” John Daigle told the Press Herald. “It shocked me, that she had delivered a baby all by herself, at 30-degree-below weather, drove herself home. I’m sure she bled.”

He was at college at the time.

The couple’s daughter, Kristyn Daigle, told the paper that her mother told her — after the police told her she was Jane Doe's mother — that she'd been unaware that she was pregnant in 1985. Instead, Lee Ann Daigle told her daughter, she was driving home from work, felt a strong urge to urinate and gave birth to a baby she believed was already dead on the side of the road near the gravel pit.

“My mom thought it was stillborn,” Kristyn Daigle told the Press Herald. “It didn’t cry. It didn’t move. To her, the baby was not alive. So, to her, it was some freak miscarriage and something that she wanted to leave in the past. People have miscarriages all the time.”

Lee Ann Daigle cooperated with investigators and gave them a DNA sample, her daughter said, noting that her mother had reportedly blocked out all details of what she believed was a miscarriage until well after she was told she was the child's mother.

“We thought that she was, like, a suspect and that this was all a misunderstanding,” Kristyn Daigle told the Press Herald. “Everyone up in the county is related to each other.”

Kristen and John Daigle told the Press Herald that DNA also showed John Daigle was not the father of the baby, but police provided the family with the name of the man who was; Lee Ann Daigle didn't recognize it. The man is reportedly aphasic after what the paper said is years of drug use and lives in an assisted living facility in Florida.

Lee Ann Daigle told her daughter that she believes she may have been raped on the night of her 21st birthday, which was nine months before she apparently gave birth; she has no memory of the night at all.

Her ex-husband identified her as a survivor of childhood violence at the hands of her alcoholic father.

John Daigle said he now wonders if his ex-wife feared he would end their relationship and leave without her for the new life they'd begun planning in New Hampshire if he knew about the pregnancy.

“She was protecting the relationship I had with her, because she probably thought I would have dumped her lickety-split,” he told the Press Herald. “This was her ticket, without that child in her way.”

He said he would have wanted to raise the baby had he known about it.

Police are asking anyone with information they believe may be relevant to the investigation to call Maine State Police at 207-532-5400.