Authorities: DNA links woman to babies' remains

AP News
Posted: Nov 13, 2009 7:27 PM

A Texas woman now believed to be the mother of three babies whose remains were found beneath a mobile home porch and nearby has been arrested after DNA tests tied her to the bodies, authorities said.

Rachel Lynnette New, 36, was released on $70,000 bond Friday after her arrest a day earlier, said Tarrant County Sheriff's spokesman Terry Grisham. She was charged with three counts of tampering with evidence. Her attorney, Danny Burns, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Two sets of infant remains were discovered this summer under the porch of a home near Rendon, in rural northern Texas, where New and her brother had been living, while another set was found nearby last year.

Investigators collected DNA samples from 23 people with ties to the property, and authorities said test results showed New was a match to the DNA recovered from the remains.

"She has been pretty much scientifically ruled in as the mother," Grisham said. "They were her children. She had to know what happened to them."

New and her brother have previously denied to detectives that they knew anything about the remains. And though she did not deny being pregnant, "when the topic got around to DNA and babies, she didn't want to talk about that," Grisham said. He said authorities do not know who fathered the children.

The infant bodies of two boys and a girl were badly decomposed, Grisham said, and at least one set had been doused in bleach. Authorities said whether they died of natural causes and weren't handled properly, or something else occurred, was not clear.

"When someone passes away you can't put them in a Tupperware container and pour bleach on them and hide them under a porch," Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said Thursday. "That's tampering with evidence."

Texas law also prohibits concealing a human corpse if someone knows it is not properly buried, with penalties of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

One of the property owners, Rex Southern, found the first set of remains _ later identified as a boy with blond hair _ in a suitcase in overgrown brush, his wife Auneta Southern said Friday. The March 2008 discovery came about 40 yards from the mobile home, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

"It was little bitty bones, about the length of my index finger, little thigh bones," said Auneta Southern. "Leg bones and little rib bones. You could tell they were ribs, they were curved."

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This summer, on Aug. 23, the Southerns' son found a cardboard box containing a set of remains under the mobile home's front porch. A forensic investigator from the medical examiner's office discovered a pink plastic container that held a third set of remains, the affidavit stated.

New and her brother rented the mobile home for about three and a half years. She moved out more than a year ago to go live with a boyfriend, Auneta Southern said.

The siblings never caused any trouble and "they seemed to be salt of the earth people," Auneta Southern said.

New worked in a "financial services role" at Baylor Medical Center at Southwest Fort Worth, but spokeswoman Nikki Mitchell said she was "not in our workplace at this time." Mitchell declined to elaborate.

Auneta Southern said they never discussed why New didn't have children, but she was friendly to the landlady's nine grandchildren.

"Our house runs on babies, we've got babies running out of our ears over here," Auneta Southern said. "I can't fathom anyone who would do that to a baby."