A Pinedale woman was arrested on Tuesday in connection with a 25-year-old Michigan case in which a dead baby was found in a septic pit, Mackinac County, Michigan sheriff’s officials announced on Wednesday.
The 58-year-old woman was arrested July 12 after she was interviewed by Mackinac County investigators and confirmed she was the mother of “Baby Garnet,” who was found June 26, 1997 by a worker in a Garnet Lake Campground septic pit in Michigan, according to sheriff’s officials.
Mackinac County Sheriff Edward Wilk told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that at most, the woman will be held at the Sublette County Jail for up to 30 days while police and judges get her extradition authorized. If she waives her right to an extradition hearing, she will be in Michigan much sooner than that.
The sheriff’s department did not identify the woman. However, the only 58-year-old woman being held at the Sublette County Detention Center as of Thursday was Nancy Ann Gerwatowski, who was listed as being a “fugitive from justice.”
“This happened almost 25 years to the day and I think that’s pretty incredible,” Wilk said. “I have to commend not only the investigators who are working on the case now, but even the deputy who took the initial call all those years ago. He managed to sort through all kinds of things in the septic pit and kept what he thought could be helpful later down the road.”
It was not clear if the baby girl was dead prior to being placed in the septic pit. The Detroit News reported that the baby’s body was too decomposed to be identified or to reveal details such as the child’s race.
Wilk said that the baby’s race has been identified, but he also could not reveal that information at this time.
Case Went Cold
While investigators attempted to solve the case when Baby Garnet was first discovered, they could never confirm her identity and the case went cold.
However, in 2017, county and state police reopened the case and ultimately decided to use forensic genetic genealogy in hopes of identifying the girl.
A genealogist traced the baby’s blood lines and found the name of the woman who was likely her mother, who had since moved from the Garnet area to Wyoming in the 25 years that had passed.
Wilk did not know when exactly the woman moved to the Pinedale area, but he said he believed she left the Garnet community not long after Baby Garnet’s death.
He also noted that the girl’s father, siblings and other family members have been identified. He said he hopes the family will receive closure from knowing what happened to Baby Garnet.
According to sheriff’s officials, the woman provided additional comments that provided probable cause for police to arrest her for murder.
According to news outlet MLive, forensics tests conducted on the baby showed that she had gestated for between 38 and 40 weeks, indicating the mother carried her to full term.
The outlet also reported that police at the time believed the girl was placed in the outhouse as early as June 1, 1997, and that her parents likely lived in the region.
The community raised nearly $1,000 to bury the girl in a white casket at Hudson Township, Michigan Cemetery. About 40 people attended Baby Garnet’s funeral, bringing flowers to the memorial service.
“We’re a county of about 11,000 people and that township has a couple hundred people, so when something like that happens around here, people take notice,” Wilk said. “Even though the case isn’t closed, we’re a step closer to bringing the community closure.”