Chief: Family DNA Leads Police to Mother Who Abandoned Baby

April 4, 2019 Updated: April 4, 2019

COLUMBIA, S.C.—DNA submitted to family genealogy sites helped police find and arrest the mother of a baby who was born alive and died abandoned inside a box in a vacant South Carolina field 29 years ago, authorities said Thursday.

The DNA led detectives to the baby’s probable father, who then told police that Brook Graham was the baby’s likely mother, Greenville County police Chief Ken Miller said.

Graham, 53, was arrested Wednesday and charged with homicide by neglect, which carries a possible life sentence. She had a court-ordered DNA test and refused to talk to detectives about the case, Miller said.

Every detective on the Greenville police force back in February 1990 worked on the case of the baby who became known as Julie Valentine, Miller said.

The baby was 6.5 pounds, born breathing, but not in a hospital, and was found with her umbilical cord and placenta still attached wrapped in newspaper and bedding inside a vacuum cleaner box along with other trash, including an old sofa, Miller said at a news conference Thursday.

The box matched the model of vacuum cleaner Graham and the probable father had bought before the baby was abandoned, according to the arrest warrant.

“There’s a field. It’s undeveloped. There is a pile of debris. It doesn’t stand out,” said Miller, who thinks the baby died shortly after she was abandoned. The girl wasn’t found for three days.

The man who found her on Feb. 13, 1990, was picking flowers for his wife for Valentine’s Day, Miller said. The holiday combined with the name of the wife of one of the detectives who worked tirelessly on the case gave the baby her name, the chief said.

The investigation continues and more charges may be filed. Miller credited the baby’s probable father for leading them to Graham but said detectives still aren’t sure how much he knew about what happened to his daughter. Both continued to live in the Greenville area after 1990, the chief said.

Graham has two adult children, and investigators are reviewing how they were raised as a part of the case, said Miller, declining to give additional details.

Graham is being held without bond. Authorities said she requested a lawyer after her arrest, but jail and court records did not indicate she had retained an attorney.

Greenville police announce arrest in Julie Valentine homicide.

Posted by WSPA 7News on Thursday, April 4, 2019

Authorities still don’t know why the baby was abandoned.

“We grieve the loss of what could have been—all the firsts Julie Valentine couldn’t experience,” said Shauna Galloway-Williams, executive director of the Julie Valentine Center.

The center to help victims of sexual assault and child abuse in Greenville was renamed for the abandoned baby in 2011.

Miller said DNA testing and other modern technology has been a boon to helping solve cold cases. He said he has no problems with using DNA from genealogy sites to help put criminals behind bars and give some comfort to people who have been hurt by unsolved cases for decades.

“People are consenting to connect and identify their lineage,” the chief said. “People are consenting to the public use of their DNA.”

By Jeffrey Collins

RECOMMENDED