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A screenshot from a video stream of a press conference at the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, regarding the newly-released composite of the mother of a baby found dead and decapitated in the county in 2014.

The newborn baby had taken at least one breath—but not many more than that—in November 2014, before her little body was abandoned at a recycling facility in central New Jersey. The decapitated little girl’s remains provided few clues, since she was so new to the world. But detectives from the New Jersey State Police and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office quickly discovered a handbag and two bloodstained blouses nearby, which they forensically determined to be the mother’s clothing.

Now they have used a popular phenotyping service employed by a growing number of local law enforcement agencies to reconstruct what that mother may look like, based on the DNA she left behind at the scene.

Detectives are now hoping for nothing less than a “holiday miracle,” three years after the tiny remains were discovered in Farmingdale, N.J.

The bag and blouse found near the baby's body, from which DNA from the baby's mother was retrieved. (Photos: Courtesy of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)

Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based DNA phenotyping company, which uses DNA profiles to generate composite facial likenesses, estimated what the mother would look like: likely a Latina woman who had Central or South American ancestry, according to authorities.

“It’s certainly not a perfect science—but it’s a best estimate based on the DNA pulled from these clothing items that were recovered,” said Christopher Gramiccioni, the Monmouth County Prosecutor. “Keep in mind – this is not a photograph. It’s a predictive composite.”

The baby was found at the ReCommunity Recycling facility on Railroad Avenue on Nov. 11, 2014, by an employee who was moving trash.

Authorities maintain, despite the decapitation, that there is no evidence of foul play—and the cause and manner of death have not been determined.

The two bloody blouses and the handbag provided some clues pointing to a small city outside Newark, about 50 miles north. The shirts were bought at the Rainbow clothing store on Main Street, and the handbag was from a “Wiz” store a few doors down. (A manager at Rainbow told Forensic Magazine he was not aware of his store’s connection to the death investigation. The other store has since permanently closed, and the telephone number is disconnected).

The little baby’s entry in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System provides a few details. Despite the decapitation, all the body parts were found. The blouses had no tags, but were sized petite to medium. A forensic sketch artist from the New Jersey State Police drew a picture in 2015 of what the baby would have looked like during her short life.

Investigators have been told by an FBI profiler that, if the mother was responsible for putting the baby's body in a Dumpster, she may have been trying to hide her pregnancy, authorities said. She may have resumed her normal routine after disposing of the child, they added.

"After delivery of the baby, the mother may have resumed some of her normal activities without showing any obvious signs of having recently given birth,' said John McCabe, the chief of detectives for the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

But the mother may also be a victim in all this - although there is no evidence pointing toward foul play against her, they added.

A composite image of the baby found deceased in Farmingdale, N.J. in November 2014. (Image: Courtesy of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)

The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office paid for the Parabon DNA predictive work from its forfeiture fund, authorities said at the press conference.

“At this point, this is an easy expenditure for us,” said Gramiccioni. “It’s a no-brainer.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Sgt. Joseph Itri of the New Jersey State Police Homicide South Unit at (609) 963--6993 or Detective Brian Weisbrot of the Monmouth Prosecutor's Major Crimes Bureau. A $5,000 reward is also offered for information leading to an arrest through Monmouth County Crime Stoppers at (800) 671-4400. Tips can be given anonymously.

Steve Armentrout, CEO of Parabon, said the unknown deceased baby cases have been on the increase recently.

“In Baby Doe cases, it can be difficult for investigators to generate leads on the parents of the baby," he said. "Even when DNA from the mother is found, it is less likely to already be in CODIS than a typical crime scene DNA sample. Snapshot can help investigators narrow their focus in such cases. The frequency with which we are being asked to work such cases has increased markedly in the past year.”

Parabon predictions have produced some successes in recent cases where just a general appearance has helped guide investigators. For instance, a North Carolina double homicide in 2012 was solved because the computer-generated face led to further genetic investigation of a man close to the case who had not even known who his true father was. In Massachusetts, a 25-year-old rape and murder was solved because the facial composite helped detectives narrow down a large pool of suspects, they said in September. Most recently, a murder from last year was solved when a Parabon image prompted a Texas man to confess to his church congregation last month that he was the killer.

However, DNA phenotyping technology (not just Parabon's Snapshot) has faced scrutiny for its limitations and skepticism about its accuracy and usefulness. Studies examining the techniques have found limitations in its ability to assuredly predict some features, including eye colors beyond blue and brown, and hair color, which it can predict with about 75 percent accuracy, according to a report in the journal Cell

Forensic Magazine associate editor Laura French contributed to this story

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