Cold case arrest: Michigan mother charged in 2003 murders of newborn twins

CHICAGO — A Michigan woman was arraigned Saturday on two counts of first-degree murder, 17 years after her newborn twin boys were found dead in a trash bin in a Chicago suburb, authorities said.

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Antoinette Briley, 41, of Holland, Michigan, was charged Friday night after she was taken into custody during a traffic stop the previous day in Oak Lawn, Illinois, WBBM-TV reported.

Judge Susana Ortiz ordered Briley held on $150,000 bail during a hearing Saturday afternoon from the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reported.

On June 6, 2003, the victims were discovered by a Waste Management employee who was emptying trash bins in an alley in unincorporated Stickney Township, the newspaper reported. One of the babies’ placentas was attached to one infant, and another was found near the other infant “inside a black shoebox,” Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Dominique Marshall told the court.

“There was evidence of live birth,” Marshall said.

An autopsy revealed that the boys were born alive and had died of asphyxiation, WMAQ reported. Their deaths were ruled homicides.

According to Marshall, in June 2003 Briley went into labor while alone at her grandparents’ home, so she got into the shower to “ease the pain,” the Tribune reported. Moments later she began giving birth.

“They were both crying when they were born, she said, but not crying so loud that neighbors could hear,” Marshall told the court, quoting Briley.

“Panicking,” Briley grabbed a duffel bag and, without wiping the babies off, placed them in the bag, got in her car and decided to drive them to a hospital, the Tribune reported.

However, Briley apparently changed her mind, pulled into an alley and placed the infants into a garbage bin, the newspaper reported.

“If nobody knew … no one would ever know” about their births, Marshall said, quoting Briley.

Briley then disposed of the duffel bag, drove back to her grandparents’ home and watched television, according to the Tribune.

“She wishes she could take the whole day back,” Marshall said, quoting Briley.

The case remained unsolved until the Cook County Sheriff’s Office reopened the investigation in 2018, WMAQ reported. DNA from evidence taken from the scene was used in an effort to identify the birth mother using new developments in genetic genealogy, police said

On July 2, 2020, police detectives who traveled to Holland, Michigan, watched Briley drop a cigarette to the ground, the Tribune reported. The cigarette butt was placed into evidence and ended up being a match to the DNA found on the babies, according to the newspaper.

On Thursday, police said they obtained information that Briley was in Cook County and took her into custody after a traffic stop in Oak Lawn, WLS reported.

”Briley was transported to the sheriff’s police headquarters here in Maywood, where she admitted post-Miranda to her involvement in the birth, death, and disposal of the two deceased infants,” Chief Leo Schmitz, of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, said at a news conference.

Public defender Courtney Smallwood told the court that Briley lives with her 12-year-old daughter and has a full-time job, working 60 to 70 hours a week as an assembly worker. She had no criminal background, and there were no witnesses to the alleged incident.

Briley has been “an active member of society,” Smallwood said. “She’s not a danger to society or flight risk.”

“Two twins died 17 years ago ... we handled the case back then, we felt a void because we couldn’t find out who did it,” Schmitz told reporters. “We never gave up.”