Wisconsin authorities crack 2009 'Baby Theresa' cold case; mother charged

JUNEAU – A 45-year-old Milwaukee woman made her initial appearance in court Friday almost 13 years after she allegedly left her infant daughter’s lifeless body in a garbage bag before abandoning the body in the woods in the town of Theresa.

Karin S. Luttinen is charged with a felony count of concealing the death of a child. She could face up to 1½ years in prison and 2 years of an extended supervision if convicted of the offense.

She appeared before Dodge County Circuit Judge Martin De Vries for her initial appearance with her attorney Aneeq Ahmad. Dodge County District Attorney Kurt Klomberg appeared for the state.

Klomberg said the parties agreed on a $2,500 cash bond with the condition that Luttinen does not leave the state.

Ahmad described Luttinen as a person who has worked in sales and marketing for the last 10 years and is in a stable relationship with no past brush-ins with the law.

According to the criminal complaint:

The baby — dubbed "Baby Theresa" by authorities — was found by a man cutting wood on a private property on April 29, 2009. Her body was discovered on Lone Road less than a mile from Highway 175 and less than 3 miles from Highway 41.

An autopsy on Baby Theresa determined she had died of "fetal demise," which indicates a child may have died prior to or during birth.

Authorities found a maxi pad wrapper in the trash bag containing the infant. It was sent to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab and came back with a DNA profile of Baby Theresa’s then-unidentified mother.

Wisconsin authorities crack 2009 'Baby Theresa' cold case; mother charged

The case was initially charged using the name Jane Doe in 2014 to prevent the statute of limitations from expiring. However it wasn’t until Jan. 29, 2021, that Luttinen was first approached about the case. A special agent for the Wisconsin Department of Justice went to speak to the father of the child and Luttinen following a potential match on the family tree DNA results.

According to the complaint, Luttinen initially denied ever being pregnant but submitted a DNA sample. DNA results showed on March 1, 2021, that Luttinen was a major component source for the maxi pad wrappings. DNA markers also showed that Luttinen was the biological mother of Baby Theresa.

Police spoke on the phone to the father of Baby Theresa on March 22, 2021, who is in a long-term relationship with Luttinen. The father was shocked and said he had no idea how it could be. The father then asked Luttinen while he was on the phone with law enforcement if she was the mother, and she said “OK.”

Luttinen spoke with law enforcement the same day. According to the complaint, Luttinen said she was in denial at the time and did not know she was pregnant at first. Toward the end of her pregnancy, she knew for sure.

Luttinen said she was in the bathroom when she had Baby Theresa and did not even know it was a girl. She said her water broke while she was on the toilet and she gave birth in a bathtub with water in it. According to the complaint, the baby came out head first and face down with the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck. She did not hear the baby cry or see the baby move before she blacked out for 15 minutes. She said the water was out of the tub when she woke up. Luttinen allegedly said that she knows the baby didn’t breathe because the baby was born underwater. She said she did not intentionally turn on the water to prevent the baby from breathing and was only trying to get comfortable at the time.

Luttinen did not attempt to give the baby CPR after realizing that it was not breathing, the complaint said.

The complaint said she told law enforcement that she panicked and grabbed a towel and put Baby Theresa in the towel before putting the baby in a garbage bag and then into her purse. She said she then got into her blue Sunfire and drove aimlessly. She said she was alone when she placed the baby in the woods.

Luttinen said she did not hear on the news about the baby and did not seek medical help after the delivery. According to the complaint, no one else knew she was pregnant at the time. Luttinen did not recall the date of Baby Theresa’s birth but knew it was before her own birthday on April 13.

According to the complaint, Luttinen was asked by law enforcement why she didn’t throw the baby in a dumpster closer to her home rather than driving the baby to Theresa. She told law enforcement that the baby was not trash. She allegedly said she put the baby in the woods as a final resting place.

Luttinen waived her preliminary hearing and will have an arraignment scheduled at a later date.

Follow Terri Pederson on Twitter @tlp53916 or contact her at 920-356-6760.

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