Mother charged in 2003 murder of newborn twins, bodies dumped in trash bin near Stickney
Inspired by news in 2018 of the arrest of the Golden State killer 32 years after his crime spree based on a DNA search for familial connections, Cook County sheriff's Detective Ginny Georgantas asked for permission from Deputy Chief of Investigations Sean Gleason to pursue a similar kind of analysis on newborn twin boys who had been left dead in a trash bin in 2003.
On Saturday, sheriff's police announced that the lengthy cold case investigation had led to two counts of first-degree murder against Antoinette Briley, 41, now of Holland, Michigan.
"I'm happy there is closure for the kids," Georgantas said. "There was nobody fighting for them."
While the case relied heavily on use of laboratories and databases, it also required traditional police work, Chief of Public Safety Leo Schmitz said in a news conference. "You still have to make a case and you still have to talk to people."
Briley admitted to the "birth, death and disposal of the two infants" in an interview with Georgantas and Detective Leslie Pratts after her arrest during a traffic stop in Oak Lawn, Schmitz said.
On June 6, 2003, the victims were discovered by a Waste Management employee who was emptying trash bins in an alley on the 4800 block of South Latrobe Avenue in unincorporated Stickney Township. The employee saw the bodies in the front lift bucket of her garbage truck.
An autopsy determined the victims were born alive and died of asphyxiation shortly afterward. Their deaths were ruled homicides.
Sheriff's police conducted a thorough investigation at the time, but the case remained unsolved, Schmitz said.
After sheriff's police reopened the case, they used DNA from evidence recovered from the scene in an effort to identify the birth mother using the latest developments in genetic genealogy research to find a familial match. The research and subsequent investigations allowed detectives to identify Briley as the victims' potential birth mother.
Sheriff's police detectives then traveled to Holland, Michigan, and obtained a discarded item containing Briley's DNA. It was matched to the DNA from the victims, police said.
On Thursday, sheriff's police learned Briley was in Cook County and took her into custody. She was charged Friday night.
Briley lived less than two miles from where the bodies were found, Gleason said. She has no previous felony arrests. She has a daughter and still has relatives in the area. Gleason declined to comment on a motive but said it likely would come out in court.
Schmitz, who thanked a number of other agencies for their help, including the FBI and the Illinois State Police, said it's been inspiring to watch the detectives work the 17-year-old case as it drew near its conclusion. "I'm proud of the work the detectives did. ... We never give up."
He said the sheriff's department and other law enforcement agencies in Illinois are looking at other cold cases with DNA evidence to see if a similar investigative approach could lead to arrests.
"It's inspiring for us to have this and to know we can use this going forward," he said.