Armand and Lorraine Pelletier of Bangor sit with their dog Cody in 2014 holding a picture of their home on Pelletier Road in Frenchville where they lived in 1985. Their dog Paca carried the body of a newborn to their doorstep in December 1985, and news of an arrest in the case has started to bring closure to the couple. Credit: Kevin Bennett / BDN

Armand and Lorraine Pelletier finally have some closure on a Maine cold case that has haunted them for decades.

In what became known as the case of Baby Jane Doe, a newborn’s body was discovered in Frenchville after the Pelletiers’ dog carried it 700 feet from the gravel pit to its nearby home.

The Pelletiers, who now live in Bangor, discovered the dead infant — with the umbilical cord still attached — on their front step after their Siberian husky named Paca carried it there from the gravel pit on Dec. 7, 1985.

Investigators at the time were able to determine the baby had been born full term and then abandoned in the gravel pit in subzero temperatures. They also determined that her death was in no way related to the dog carrying the infant.

The Maine State police on Tuesday announced the arrest and murder charge of 58-year-old Lee Ann Daigle of Lowell, Massachusetts, in the death of an unnamed infant in December 1985. 

The arrest brings at least partial closure and some answers to questions residents of this northern Maine community have asked for more than three decades. There is also a growing realization that it was one of their own who allegedly abandoned a baby in the freezing cold.

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DNA testing has determined that Daigle was the mother of the child that froze to death soon after she was born and abandoned in a gravel pit on a night when the temperature dipped to 30-degrees below zero. Daigle was 21 years old at the time.

“Never, ever, ever did I dream even with DNA that they would find the mother,” Lorraine Pelletier said on Tuesday. “It was so long ago.”

The Pelletiers had warning an arrest was pending, Lorraine Pelletier said. She said a Maine State Police detective came to their home Mother’s Day weekend to let her know a woman had been identified as the mother. Then they were told a few days ago the arrest would be soon.

“It puts me in a situation where I am angry at [Daigle], but then again, you can’t hold on to that anger,” Lorraine Pelletier said. “She was scared, and it just breaks my heart she never rang our doorbell and never asked for help.”

It is all the more painful given that the Pelletiers were never able to have children of their own.

“We think about it every day,” Lorraine Pelletier said. “It just never goes away. It’s something that just stays with us especially when December comes around. We could have helped her, but I am glad that now we can close this part of the story.”

Paca lived to be 12 but died from cancer in 1987.

News of Daigle’s arrest has residents in that St. John Valley community reacting to a crime they never imagined would be solved but on Tuesday people were in disbelief.

One Frenchville resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid criticizing neighbors in a small town, said she was “shocked” to learn Daigle had been charged with the baby’s murder.

The woman said she knows several of Daigle’s family members well, and that Daigle, then Guerrette, attended Wisdom High School in St. Agatha.

“She was such a nice girl,” the woman said.

Glenna Ouellette Guerrette of Frenchville, who is not related to Daigle, said she remembers Baby Jane Doe’s death like it was yesterday.

Glenna Guerrette was nearing the end of her own pregnancy, also carrying a little girl, when Baby Jane Doe froze in the northern Maine snow.

“The officers were asking people that knew of someone that was pregnant and wasn’t anymore,” Guerrette said. “My Mom called me to make sure I was still pregnant.”

At the time her mother called, Guerrette had not heard of Baby Jane Doe’s death, because she was on bed rest, but she was devastated by the news.

“I couldn’t imagine someone doing that,” Guerrette said. “I am glad that investigators never gave up on her and now she can rest in peace.”  

If she had the opportunity to talk to Daigle, Lorraine Pelletier said she would want to ask her questions.

“Why leave a baby in the gravel pit?” Lorraine Pelletier said. “Why not come to our house and say you had just had a baby and needed help — we would have taken that baby and helped her in any way we could.”

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.