Woman accused of concealing babies' deaths arrested

Police: Woman wanted on North Carolina warrant captured in Baldwin

By Destiny McKeiver - Multi-media journalist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A woman wanted in North Carolina in connection with the discovery of babies' body parts under a home 15 months ago was arrested Wednesday in Baldwin.

Police in Smithfield, North Carolina, said 41-year-old Bridgette Morgan Smith was arrested at a motel on East Beaver Street on a warrant for concealing or failing to report a death. She is being held in the Duval County jail on a fugitive warrant of extradition.

Investigators said that in April 2016 a relative of Smith's found trash bags containing the remains of two infants in a crawl space under her mother's Smithfield home.

According to the warrant issued for Smith, her mother, Pamela McBride, told police on April 16, 2016, that she asked her son, James Morgan, to run a cable under the house, and when he opened the crawl space door, he found two trash bags that he described as “squishy.” When he later opened them, he realized right away that they contained what looked like human remains. He alerted McBride, who called police.

The detective who responded confirmed the remains appeared to be those of a human infant, and that a foot the size of a newborn's could be seen among the remains. The medical examiner later confirmed the remains were those of two babies.

The detective said the remains were wrapped in three separate trash bags, with towels wrapped around the remains inside the inner trash bag.

McBride told police her daughter, Smith, had battled drug addiction her entire adult life, mostly using cocaine and sometimes meth. McBride told the detective that Smith became pregnant as a teenager and that she helped deliver the child and immediately adopted him upon birth.

McBride told police that Smith has a daughter and son that are in McBride's custody. The girl was 7 years old and the boy was 8 months old when the initial report was filed in 2016.

McBride told police that Smith would live with her for months at a time, but then leave and stay gone for months.

Smithfield police said they had reason to believe Smith was in Northeast Florida, and were in contact with multiple law enforcement agencies in the area. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said it wasn't a tip that led them to Smith, but some communication that came to them -- presumably from Smithfield police. 

It's unclear when she will be taken back to North Carolina, but she has waived extradition, according to court records. She has a July 21 review hearing in Duval County court, if she is still in Duval County then.

The medical examiner's office has not determined a cause of death, and further charges for Smith have not been ruled out, authorities said.

Attorney Randy Reep said those extra charges are likely.

"I think from a logical standpoint, it's very likely," Reep said. "Imagine, why do people hide bodies? It's because, generally, they're complicit in the death of those bodies."

But Reep said Smith's direct connection to the death of the children might be challenging to prove.

"If you think back to the high-profile case in Florida of Casey Anthony, she had the corpse of a child in a car, but the cause of death, to a jury, was never proven to the extent where they found her guilty of the child's murder," Reep said.

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