It was a shocking discovery that left the police in Conway, South Carolina, baffled. More than a decade ago, the body of a newborn boy was found dead inside a tote bag. An autopsy revealed the baby had been alive before he was placed inside the bag, and experts surmised he was no more than a day old at the time. But their biggest remaining questions — who did this, and why? — would evade police for nearly 12 years. That’s when DNA testing recently confirmed the mother’s identity as 32-year-old Jennifer Sahr, who has since been arrested.
The infant, nicknamed “Baby Horry” by authorities, was discovered on December 4, 2008.
At the time, Sahr was a 20-year-old college student at Coastal Carolina University, where she was known as Jennifer Rickel. Today, she is a married mother of two living in Pensacola, Florida, the Post and Courier reported.
On Tuesday night, a Carolina Regional Fugitive U.S. Marshals Task Force swiftly arrested the mother and brought her to a South Carolina detention facility, where she was denied bond. She faces one charge of homicide by child abuse, WLTX reported.
Utility workers reportedly discovered the baby after noticing a box left in a wooded area off South Carolina Highway 544.
The baby was wrapped in a blanket and left inside a Bath and Body Works tote bag that was placed in a box. The infant had no visible injuries at the time, and an official cause of death was never released. According to the Post and Courier, officials say he was born alive and had he been provided with medical attention — instead of being left out in the frigid winter air — he would have survived.
The baby was eventually buried as the investigation went cold, without any major leads or witnesses to point authorities in the direction of a possible suspect.
The baby’s death was especially shocking considering that South Carolina has a safe haven law.
It’s known as Daniel’s Law, named in honor of a baby boy who was buried in a landfill as an infant and miraculously survived, and it was put in place in 2000. The law grants immunity to anyone who safely surrenders an infant up to 2 months (or 60 days) old, according to South Carolina’s Department of Social Service.
“Daniel’s Law was enacted to prevent these kinds of dangerous and often fatal abandonments,” the DSS website read. Instead of abandoning the child in a dangerous situation or leaving the baby for dead, parents “can give their child a chance at a happy, healthy life with a loving family,” it continued.
Designated safe havens include hospitals, fire departments, law enforcement agencies, or staffed places of worship. In response, workers at safe haven locations will contact the Department of Social Services, which will place the babies in foster homes.
Despite the passage of time, Baby Horry was far from forgotten in Conway.
Every year, Coroner Robert Edge reportedly lead a memorial service at his headstone. In 2009, just a year after the child’s death, Sgt. Robert Kegler announced that a DNA profile was obtained that authorities hoped would help lead them to the victim’s parents, should a suspect be run through their system.
They didn’t know it would take another 12 years until that finally happened.
The Florida mom was arrested in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she was traveling with her husband and two small children, according to WEAR.
“Over the last 12 years, the Horry County community has demonstrated a commitment to keeping the memory of Baby Boy Horry alive,” police said in a statement obtained by the Post and Courier. “It is our sincere hope that this new development will bring the community and all who have been touched by this case some sense of peace.”