HOULTON, Maine — Caribou native Lee Ann (Guerette) Daigle pleaded guilty Thursday to criminal negligence manslaughter in the 1985 death of her newborn infant, Baby Jane Doe.
Once DNA evidence linked Daigle to Baby Jane Doe last year, Maine State Police arrested the 59-year-old Massachusetts woman after a grand jury indicted her on one count of intentional, knowing or depraved murder.
In Houlton Superior court on Thursday, Justice Stephen Nelson accepted Daigle’s plea following a detailed reading of the evidence by Assistant Attorney General Lara Nomani.
“During the morning hours of Dec. 7, 1985, Armand Pelletier discovered the naked, bloody body of a baby girl on the lawn of his home located on the Bouchard Road in Frenchville,” Nomani said.
The Pelletiers’ Siberian husky, Paca, found the body, Nomani said.
When Maine State Police responded to the Pelletiers’ emergency call, they collected Baby Jane’s full-term, unclothed, unswaddled and partially frozen body with a section of umbilical cord still attached, she said. The overnight windchill was near zero, police said at the time.
Police found a single set of tire tracks at the entrance to the gravel pit approximately 1,000 feet from the Pelletiers’ home. Blood and the placenta were found in an area in front of the tracks. Additionally, police found footprints and drops of blood going from the car to a small hollow near a stand of alders about 40 feet away from the tire tracks, Nomani said.
On autopsy, the medical examiner determined the baby’s death was a homicide.
Baby Jane’s blood was collected, preserved and later analyzed for DNA to help investigators search for her biological mother and father. The search for Baby Jane’s parents spanned decades, according to Nomani.
In 2021, police found the biological father but never named him, and in 2022 the DNA was linked to Daigle, Nomani said.
When the state police first interviewed Daigle at her Massachusetts home in 2022, she denied having been pregnant or living in the area at the time of Baby Jane’s death, and refused to give a DNA sample for comparison, the state said.
When police told her that DNA identified her as Baby Jane’s mother, Daigle admitted to delivering the infant in the gravel pit, according to Nomani.
Daigle was 21 at the time and she told police that conception was likely the result of a one-night stand, police said regarding her 2022 interview.
Nomani told the court that Daigle admitted to police that she chose abandonment, knowing it would cause Baby Jane’s death.
According to Nomani, the medical examiner said it would have taken from five to 10 minutes for the naked, wet baby to succumb to a zero-degree environment.
Police asked Daigle if she considered options other than abandonment, Nomani said.
“No, no, no, no. It was abandonment,” Daigle told police during her 2022 interviews.
Daigle also told police she was not sure why she moved Baby Jane from the gravel pit to the hollow near the stand of alders, other than embarrassment at not knowing the father, Nomani said.
Additionally, Daigle told police that she never checked to see if the baby was a boy or a girl and that she never considered going back to get her, Nomani said.
Judge Nelson asked if Daigle had any comments regarding the reading of the evidence. Daigle’s attorney, Adam Swanson, said they would reserve comments or clarifications for her sentencing.
Sentencing will be at a later date, Nelson said.
Daigle’s brother, David Guerette of St. Agatha, posted $50,000 cash bail last August and Daigle remains under 24/7 house arrest at her brother’s home.
Under the conditions of her release, Daigle may travel within 50 miles of her brother’s home if he is with her. Farther distances need prior approval. She was ordered by the court to pay $34 per week for her GPS tracking device.
Because the crime was committed in 1985, sentencing guidelines from that time dictate that Daigle faces up to 20 years imprisonment and up to $50,000 in fines, Nelson said.