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DNA leads to charges for couple in death of infant 30 years after body discovered

A private lab was able to recover genetic material from remains found in 1991, leading authorities to a married couple alleged to be the baby's parents.

Authorities arrested a North Carolina couple last week in the death of an infant found in a trash can more than three decades ago.

Scott Gordon Poole, 54, and Robin Lynn Byrum, 51, have been charged with concealing the birth of a child, according to a Monday news release from the Nags Head Police Department. The couple, who are married, could face more charges upon further investigation.

Nags Head is a coastal town located on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Authorities found the remains of a baby in a “trash can rack” on the morning of April 4, 1991, naming the child “Baby Doe.” Decomposition had accelerated to the point where the officers who responded to the scene were unable to determine the baby’s sex.

Nags Head Police Chief Phil Webster praised investigators for their work to ensure those responsible for the baby’s death “will be held accountable.”

“The tragedy of this child’s death and the manner in which his body was disposed of is compounded by the fact that, until now, no one has been found responsible for this incredibly heartbreaking act,” Webster said.

Detectives began a re-examination of the cold case in 2019, sending a rib bone for analysis at a lab in The Woodlands, Texas, police said. Lab technicians were able to find DNA evidence on the bone and create a genealogical profile that led to Poole and Byrum.

Police then contacted the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office in Taylorsville, where the couple was living, to assist in the investigation, according to information released Tuesday from Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman.

Both law enforcement departments worked with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to conduct “an operation to obtain DNA” from the couple, which confirmed they were the infant’s parents.

A medical examiner autopsy determined that the child died by blunt force trauma to the face and asphyxiation, the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office said. It’s unclear how old the infant was at the time of death.

Poole and Byrum were arrested following the execution of a search warrant at their home Thursday. The couple was being held on a $250,000 bond each, and it is unclear if they have retained an attorney.

North Carolina passed a safe surrender law, sometimes known as safe haven laws in other states, in 2001 to prevent the abandonment and possible death of newborn babies. The law allows parents to give their infants to someone such as a social worker or health care provider within a week of birth, without having to give their names.