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Woman pleads guilty to murdering her newborn in 2019 by leaving child in a cooler on the side of a Georgia road

The abandoned newborn's body was found in January 2019. 15 months later the child's mother was arrested. On Wednesday the young woman entered a guilty plea.

ATLANTA — Caroline Riley Propes was sentenced this week to serve 23 years in prison followed by seven years of probation for murdering her newborn child in 2019.

The sentence was the result of a negotiated plea deal read in court on Wednesday, for the felony charges of second-degree murder and second-degree child cruelty. 

The child was born Dec. 28, 2018. Court records detailing the crimes state sometime between Dec. 31, 2018, and Jan. 6, 2019 Propes placed Eliza Jane Warner in a cooler, closed the cooler, and then left it on the side of Boy Scout Road in Troup County, resulting in the child's death by asphyxia.

PREVIOUS REPORTING: A year later, teen charged after baby found dead in cooler on side of road

The court records provide no motive for the murder.

The baby's body was found next to Boy Scout Road near the intersection with New Franklin Road inside a blue-colored cooler decorated with a bright watermelon pattern on Jan. 6, 2019.

The 911 call obtained by 11Alive following the discovery revealed just how surprising it was for the witness. 

"It's a dead baby," the 911 caller said. "It's a dead baby...I'm about to have a heart attack."

After the baby's body was found 15 months passed before an arrest was made.

Credit: Troup County Sheriff's Office
Caroline Riley Propes

Once Troup County investigators received a DNA match identifying Propes as the child's biological mother, they took her into custody on March 26, 2020.

“From the moment this case was opened, I and my team of investigators were determined to bring this case to a conclusion," Troup County Sheriff James Woodruff said at the time of the arrest. "I cannot thank them enough for their determination to close a case that touched many people and were it not for the work of DNA Solutions and Innovative Forensic DNA, LLC, this case may not have been solved. We greatly appreciate their assistance.”

Investigators submitted a sample of the baby’s DNA to DNA Solutions in Oklahoma City for forensic DNA analysis, they said. When the analysis was complete, the results were then sent to Innovative Forensic DNA in Skippers, Va. for "investigative genetic genealogy research." 

Credit: Courtesy / Family Photo
Credit: Sheriff of Troupe County
Police said a dead newborn was found dumped in this bag along a road in Troup County.

The genetic genealogy research led authorities to Propes being the biological mother of the baby.

"There is no excuse why they disposed of it like it was, or why they disposed of the child like they did," Sgt. Stewart Smith of the Troup County Sheriff's Office previously told 11Alive News. "But again, we just want to know the circumstances of what happened and what led up to the death of this child."

In August Propes had been indicted and charged with seven felony charges, including malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, and first-degree child cruelty. Court records show those charges were dismissed earlier this week as her guilty plea was submitted.

 

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