Teen mom who left Baby Mary to die in New Jersey park on Christmas Eve 1984 was living ordinary suburban life with husband and kids when she was tracked down and arrested – now she’s in jail

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Catherine Crumlich, 57, was just 17 when she abandoned her newborn baby
  • She pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 364 days in prison
  • Before her arrest, Crumlich led the life of a doting mother to her two sons

The teen mother who abandoned Baby Mary in a New Jersey park on Christmas Eve 1984 was leading an ordinary life with her husband and sons in South Carolina before police caught up with her last year. 

Catherine Crumlich, now 57, was just 17 years old when she left the one-day-old baby by a stream in Mendham, Morris County, with the umbilical cord still intact.

The death was ruled a homicide after the medical examiner determined the baby was still alive when Crumlich wrapped her in a towel and placed her inside a plastic bag.

The little girl was baptized by a local priest, Reverend Michael Drury of St. Joseph Church, who dubbed her ‘Mary’, and the case made national headlines. 

For 40 years, the case was cold. Then in September last year, prosecutors made the bombshell announcement that they’d tracked down Mary’s parents using DNA connected to the then 19-year-old father. 

He had died but the mother, Crumlich, was alive and well, living with her family.  

Crumlich was last week convicted of juvenile delinquency and has been sentenced to a year in prison. 

Catherine Crumlich, 57, has been sentenced to 364 days in prison, nearly 40 years after she abandoned her newborn baby girl in a New Jersey park

Crumlich relocated to suburban South Carolina and was the picture of a dedicated mother to her two sons, Zachary and Noah

Crumlich relocated to suburban South Carolina and was the picture of a dedicated mother to her two sons, Zachary and Noah

She was just 17 years old when she left her unnamed baby girl by a stream in Mendham, Morris County, on Christmas Eve 1984

She was just 17 years old when she left her unnamed baby girl by a stream in Mendham, Morris County, on Christmas Eve 1984

Her Facebook captures the life she led under the name Catherine Snyder-Crumlich after relocating and settling in suburban Columbia, South Carolina with her new family.

Photos show her gleefully posing with her husband, David, and sons, Zachary and Noah.

Crumlich was the picture of a doting mother, attending her sons’ high school baseball games, weddings and later babysitting her grandkids.

She took up a job working at a specialty grocery store called The Crescent Olive, where she was pictured grinning with coworkers around Christmastime 2018. 

But her good life came to an end when she was sentenced to one year in jail last week after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

This came a year after Morris County prosecutors filed a juvenile delinquency complaint, leading to her arrest in South Carolina. 

Investigators used modern DNA analysis to trace Baby Mary’s parents, but her father, who was 19 at the time of her birth, had passed away in 2009 before he could be identified.

There is no evidence the man was aware of his daughter’s birth or death, according to prosecutors.

Crumlich entered her guilty plea on February 28. The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office said the manslaughter charge would have been considered a second-degree offense, had it been committed by an adult.

Facebook photos show Crumlich grinning beside her husband, David

Facebook photos show Crumlich grinning beside her husband, David

The 57-year-old (left) was pictured attending her sons' high school baseball games and weddings

The 57-year-old (left) was pictured attending her sons’ high school baseball games and weddings

Investigators used modern DNA analysis to determine the identity of Baby Mary's parents, but the little girl's father (not pictured) died in 2009, before the case could come to a close

Investigators used modern DNA analysis to determine the identity of Baby Mary’s parents, but the little girl’s father (not pictured) died in 2009, before the case could come to a close

Crumlich (second from left) was traced to South Carolina and arrested in April 2023

Crumlich (second from left) was traced to South Carolina and arrested in April 2023

Pictured: An image from the 1980s when Baby Mary was first found

Pictured: An image from the 1980s when Baby Mary was first found

On April 3, Judge Michael Wright sentenced Crumlich to 364 days at the Morris County Correctional Facility, followed by two years of probation.

The ruling marked an end to a case that had gone cold for decades.

It came 40 years after Baby Mary was discovered by two boys on Christmas Eve morning. The medical examiner determined that she was under 24 hours old at the time of her death.

In her mother’s absence, the community saw that Baby Mary would be taken care of. 

She was laid to rest in the church cemetery and given a headstone inscribed with a Bible quote: ‘I will never forget you, I have carved you in the palm of my hand.’

Father Drury continued to hold a graveside service for the infant every Christmas Eve.

She pleaded guilty to manslaughter on February 28. Had the crime been committed when she was an adult, prosecutors said it would have been upgraded to a second-degree offense

She pleaded guilty to manslaughter on February 28. Had the crime been committed when she was an adult, prosecutors said it would have been upgraded to a second-degree offense

In a press release, Morris County Prosecutor Robert Carroll commended the tireless work of police and investigators that led to the identification of the little girl’s parents.

‘Over the last nearly four decades, investigators have vigorously pursued every lead to identify Baby Mary and learn more about the circumstances leading to her discovery in the woods,’ he wrote.

“This disposition has been years in the making, across generations of law enforcement who have demonstrated a relentless commitment to justice for Baby Mary.’

Speaking to the Bergen Record, Mendham Township Police Chief Ross Johnson said he was relieved the mystery had finally met an end.

‘I’m proud we can ultimately bring justice to a baby girl, needlessly abandoned in the woods on a cold winter night,’ Johnson said.

New JerseyChristmas

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