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Florida Woman Charged with Murdering Newborn Boy in Connecticut More than 35 Years Ago

Janita M. Phillips appears in a mugshot released by the Greenwich, Conn. Police Department.

Janita M. Phillips appears in a mugshot released by the Greenwich, Conn. Police Department.

A Connecticut police department on Friday announced the arrest of a woman who allegedly murdered her newborn baby boy some 35 years ago.

Janita M. Phillips, 62, now of Lake Mary, Fla., is charged with murdering an “infant male child found deceased inside a sanitation truck” in Greenwich, Conn., on May 16, 1986, Greenwich Deputy Chief Robert Berry wrote on Facebook. Phillips surrendered to police in Connecticut on Friday morning.

Back in 1986, the police department says Phillips was a resident at 27 Havemeyer Place in Greenwich. The sanitation truck “had just emptied a dumpster at the apartment building” where Phillips lived when the baby’s body was discovered inside the truck.

Police dubbed the little boy “Baby John” at the time.

According to 1986 news accounts, the dead baby was discovered with its “placenta and umbilical cord still attached.” The baby boy “weighed 3 pounds, 10 ounces and was born after the mother’s eighth month of pregnancy,” those reports indicated. Authorities said the infant’s body was discovered at about 5:50 a.m. and that it appeared to have been strangled to death shortly after birth. Sixteen detectives were assigned to the case.

The refuse collector who found the baby’s body said at the time that he had feared making such a discovery at some point during his then-12-year career and braced himself for the possibility.

“So when it did happen, I wasn’t as shocked as someone else might be,” he reportedly said to the local newspaper.

Officials recapped the autopsy findings on Friday.

“The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that the cause of death was strangulation and ruled the case a homicide,” Deputy Chief Berry wrote. “It was determined that the child was born alive and that he was killed soon after birth.”

The police department said evidence collected from the scene, including “items soaked with blood,” ultimately yielded a link to Phillips, who the deputy chief described as a “parent” of the dead infant.

Greenwich detectives traveled to Florida in September, met with Phillips, and secured a confession, they said. Detectives from Florida’s Seminole County Sheriff’s Office assisted.

“During this interview, and in a subsequent written statement, [Phillips] admitted that she was the mother of the child and that she caused his death,” Greenwich police said. “Additional DNA testing further confirmed that [Phillips] was the mother of the deceased child.”

Interviews conducted in 1986 did not yield enough evidence to “positively identify the killer,” the police said.

Phillips is charged with murder under Conn. Gen. Stats. § 53a-54a and was being held on a $50,000 bond as of Friday morning.

At an 11:00 a.m. press conference on Friday, Greenwich Police said that Phillips hid her pregnancy and felt remorseful over the years.  Phillips moved to Florida shortly after killing the baby, police added.

The authorities said Phillips has at least two other children; her attorneys said she has three — one of whom has special needs.

Attorneys for the defendant added that Phillips would be released from custody with a promise to reappear. They told News 12 Connecticut reporter Marissa Alter outside the Stamford, Conn. courthouse Friday morning that Phillips is married, has lived a spotless life, and has worked in the insurance industry since leaving Connecticut more than two decades ago.

Deputy Chief Berry assessed the case as follows on Facebook:

We are grateful that justice is finally being obtained for this infant child of our community. The investigation of his tragic death has taken many long years, but he has always been remembered and we hope this conclusion will bring him peace and recognition. Each and every life has meaning and we will always pursue every avenue in the pursuit of justice. We would like to recognize our outstanding partners in this lengthy investigation from the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida State Attorney’s Office, the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office in Stamford and the Connecticut State Lab-Division of Scientific Services. There have been many Greenwich Detectives over the last thirty-five years who have investigated this case to the extent of the resources available to them, but I would like to especially single out the work of Greenwich Police Detective First Grade Christy Girard whose tireless efforts, investigative skill and ingenuity brought this investigation to a successful conclusion.

Attorneys for the defendant noted that the police misspelled the defendant’s name in press releases. It is spelled Phillips, they said. The police listed her last name as “Philips.” Law&Crime has used the spelling provided by the defense team.

[image via Greenwich, Conn. police mugshot]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.