A 48-year-old former Orion woman accused in the death of a newborn in 1992 will return home to Ohio after a sentencing hearing Tuesday in Rock Island County Court.
Angela Renee Siebke, of Whitehall, Ohio, is the mother of “Baby Jane April Doe.” She was sentenced to two years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, but has credit for time served. She has been held in Rock Island County Jail after she was arrested in December 2020.
She originally faced a first-degree murder charge, then, after she waived a jury trial, she pleaded guilty to a charge of endangering the life of a child resulting in death.
“I think (the sentence) is fair,” said Siebke’s attorney, Steve Hanna, after the court session. “She was just a kid when it happened. She went and gave birth on a Friday night and went to work Monday morning.”
The baby, Hanna said, was stillborn. He pointed out Siebke now is the mother of six other children.
During the trial, Hanna pointed out the child was “interracial,” and that the breadwinner for the teenage Siebke’s family was a racist. The baby’s biological father abandoned Siebke, who gave birth alone, he said.
“She never had a chance,” he said after the hearing.
Siebke, who sobbed throughout the proceedings, gave a brief statement. She took full responsibility “of not reaching out and getting help” when she was 18.
“I have lived with this every day of my life,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
A tragic discovery in the Mississippi River
A plastic bag containing the body of a baby girl was found dead floating in the Mississippi River on April 11, 1992. An autopsy revealed “Baby Girl April” died of suffocation and hypothermia.
Former Rock Island County State’s Attorney John McGehee announced in 2014 that a first-degree murder charge had been filed against a woman’s DNA profile found along the banks of the river near 17th Street.
In 1992, Siebke would have been a resident of Orion. Records reflect she had traffic tickets in Rock Island and Scott counties in the 1990s.
1992 ‘Baby April’ death
On April 11, 1992, the Moline Police Department was called to 17th Street Park (now Stoney Creek/YMCA Boathouse) in Moline in reference to a citizen who found a deceased infant in a bag along the shoreline. A man walking his dog near 17th Street and River Drive in Moline, spotted a trash bag floating along the banks of the Mississippi River, a news release from Moline Police says.
The man was able to pull the bag ashore and opened it to discover a dead female infant. The investigation revealed a full term, healthy baby girl who was named “Baby April” and later buried in Riverside Cemetery while the investigation continued. An autopsy conducted by the Rock Island County coroner identified the cause of death as suffocation asphyxiation and hypothermia.
No leads were developed at that time and no arrests were made in 1992. At the time, Moline Police conducted DNA blood typing, the first case of its kind in Illinois in 1992.
The Moline Police Department worked the case for many years, initially by Det. George Miklas, now retired, and Detective Mike Griffin. Through advancements in DNA technology, Moline Police obtained a DNA profile of the mother and pursued criminal charges against the unknown named mother.
DNA helps solve a mystery
On Dec. 15, 2014, then-Rock Island County States Attorney John McGehee announced a first degree murder charge against “female contributor to human DNA profile P92-001627 Exhibit3B2.”
A warrant was issued for the arrest of a female possessing that DNA profile and was entered into a statewide database. If someone with that DNA profile was identified, the charge would be amended with the legal name of the individual, the news release says.
In November 2019, Moline Police Chief Darren Gault submitted a budget request to the City Council for expanded funding for cold case investigations. Spearheaded by Ald. Kevin Schoonmaker, a motion was then made by Ald. Sonia Berg and Ald. Mike Wendt and the council unanimously authorized funding for the 2020 fiscal year.
Gault authorized the Criminal Investigation Division to submit a genetic DNA profile to Parabon Nanolabs in Reston, Virginia to conduct DNA analysis on this case. Parabon Nanolabs provides a variety of DNA services to include Snapshot DNA Analysis to advance investigations when traditional DNA methods fail to produce a match.
Parabon returned a Snapshot DNA report giving investigators new leads in the case. In June 2020, Moline Police continued pursuing DNA analysis with Parabon and obtained a Genetic Geneology Report with further leads in the case.
Genetic genealogy (GG) is a lead generation tool that can be used to identify human remains by tying DNA to a family or point to the likely identity of an individual whose DNA was found at a crime scene. Genealogists accomplish this through the use of comparative DNA analysis, which measures the amount of DNA that is shared between two people, combined with traditional genealogy research using historical records to infer relationships between individuals.
Parabon uses only publicly available GG databases, such as GEDmatch, with policies that users must agree to that allow law enforcement usage. Given these policies and the amount of press surrounding the Golden State Killer case and its use of genetic genealogy, Parabon believes that participants are now aware that these databases could be used for law enforcement purposes, the release says.
Such databases do not disclose or expose any raw genetic data; only the amount and chromosomal location of shared DNA segments can be seen. At no time were the private commercial DNA service databases, such as 23andMe or AncestryDNA, used. Citizens’ private DNA is not being analyzed by the government.
Tracking a suspect
In November 2020, Parabon Nanolabs provided an additional genetic genealogy research report which provided genetic matches and genealogy research used to construct a set of ancestors and narrow down a final list of leads.
Moline Police then used traditional police work to continue the investigation whereupon a suspect was identified.
On Dec. 1, 2020. Moline Police Detectives with the Special Investigations Group located Siebke at her residence in Ohio.
In 1992, Siebke would have been a resident of Orion, Ill. A search warrant for her DNA was served on her by Moline Police Detectives who traveled to Ohio. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Siebke on Dec. 17, 2020.
Siebke originally was charged with first degree murder as the female contributor to the human DNA profile to Exhibit3B2. She was arrested in Rock Island.
The Moline Police Department was assisted in this investigation by the Illinois State Police Crime Scene Services, Illinois State Police Morton Crime Lab, the Rock Island State’s Attorney’s Office, Parabon Nanolabs and the Columbus, Ohio, Police Department Cold Case Unit and the Whitehall, Ohio, Police Department.