Public Safety

Woman enters not-guilty plea in 1992 Baby April murder case in Moline

Baby April, named for the month in 1992 that her body was found in Moline, Ill., is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Moli
Baby April, named for the month in 1992 that her body was found in Moline, Ill., is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Moline. On Thursday, an Ohio woman was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder in the baby’s death. (Barb Ickes/Quad-City Times)
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The hands of the Sentry Quartz clock on the cinder-block wall outside Courtroom 100 in the Rock Island County Justice Center in Illinois were stuck at 2:24 Tuesday morning.

For 28 years, time stood still in Moline’s Baby April case — until Dec. 17, when detectives from the Moline Police Department arrested Angela Siebke and charged her with the killing of the long-unidentified infant known as Baby April.

Siebke, 47, of Whitehall, Ohio, appeared in Courtroom 100 via closed-circuit television Tuesday with attorney Steve Hanna and entered a not-guilty plea to a first-degree murder charge in death of the infant.

Siebke waived her preliminary hearing and formal arraignment. She is being held in the Rock Island County Jail on a bond of $1 million. Her next hearing date is set for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 22.

In addition to praising diligent police work, Moline Police Chief Darren Gault credited genetic genealogy tracing and the work done in Baby April’s case to Parabon Nanolabs, the same Reston, Va., company that identified the suspect in the 1979 fatal stabbing on Michelle Martinko, 18, at Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids.

That evidence led to the conviction of Jerry Burns, 66, of Manchester, in February. He is serving life in prison.

Siebke was charged with the killing of an infant found in a trash bag floating along the shores of the Mississippi River near Moline’s old 17th Street Park.

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The child became known as Baby April, named for the month in 1992 she was found. She was buried in Riverside Cemetery.

Gault recalled that in 2014, then-Rock Island County States Attorney John McGehee announced a first-degree murder charge against “female contributor to human DNA profile P92-001627.”

At the time of McGehee’s announcement 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.

“Genetic genealogy 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,” Gault said.

Genetic genealogists use comparative DNA analysis — the measure of the amount of DNA that is shared between two people, combined with traditional genealogy research using historical records to infer relationships between individuals.

Gault said Parabon Nanolabs in November supplied a report that provided genetic matches and genealogy research used to construct a set of ancestors and narrow a list of leads.

Moline police investigators worked the leads and on Dec. 1 located Siebke at her residence in Ohio. In 1992, Siebke lived in Orion, Ill., a small city 20 miles east of Davenport.

A second Baby April

There was another Baby April in the Quad Cities.

On April 21, 1997, Baby April LeClaire was found in a shallow backyard grave in the Mississippi River town in Eastern Iowa.

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The infant’s mother, Carole Bowe, pleaded guilty to intentionally killing the baby, along with another newborn. The body of Baby Leap Year was found in February 1992 and died as the result of a fractured skull.

Bowe was sentenced to two 25-year prison terms in January 1999 for the babies’ murders.

However, she was freed to work-release supervision on Oct. 9, 2012, after serving nearly 13 years. She was granted parole and released to parole supervision in January 2013.

A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections said Bowe is expected to complete her sentence and no longer be under supervision from the DOC in November 2021.

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