In an unusual twist, the judge’s staff and deputies blocked entry into the makeshift courtroom.
CHARDON, Ohio — It was a murder mystery that left Northeast Ohio stunned back in 1993. Now, the “Geauga’s Child” case is back in court as suspect Gail Eastwood-Ritchey goes to trial this week.
Eastwood-Ritchey’s arrest came more than 26 years after a baby boy’s body was found in a trash bag along Sidley Road back on March 25, 1993.
Jury selection began at 8:30 a.m. Monday in a court that was anything but open to the public. Day one of jury selection was moved out of the Geauga County Courthouse, into the county commissioner’s office, and behind closed doors.
The secretary for Judge David Ondrey told 3News jury selection was moved due to a lack of space. We couldn’t determine that for ourselves, despite long standing rules that our courts are presumed open to the public.
In an unusual twist Monday, Ondrey’s staff and deputies blocked entry into the makeshift court room. 3News objected and demanded a hearing based on past Supreme Court rulings, but our requests went unanswered.
At a previous court hearing, the judge reviewed the charges and maximum possible penalties she could receive upon conviction:
- Aggravated murder: Life sentence with possibility of parole after 20 years and a maximum fine of $25,000.
- Murder: Life sentence with possibility of parole after 15 years and a maximum fine of $15,000.
Officials say she was the mother of the baby boy, and allegedly admitted to placing the child in a trash bag and leaving him in a wooded area shortly after giving birth.
Authorities say she also admitted to a similar crime involving another child she claims to have disposed of in Cuyahoga County.
She was identified through familial DNA, which apparently came from another relative. Investigators were able to match that DNA to Geauga’s Child.
To this day, the baby’s gravestone is simply marked as “Geauga’s Child.”
“There will probably be a certain amount of litigation both before they really get into the heart of the trial and in front of the jury as to the reliability, the viability and the circumstances by which the government did the DNA testing to look into these registries,” explained Michael Benza, senior law instructor at Case Western Reserve’s School of Law. “We look at DNA evidence as sort of the gold standard of forensic evidence linking defendants to crimes.”
Editor’s note: Video in the player above was originally published in a previous story in this case on Aug. 19, 2019.