TULLAHOMA, Tenn. — A Tennessee woman was in court Friday after authorities last week found the skeletal remains of a newborn in a storage unit she rented 27 years ago.
Melissa Sims McCann, 62, of Tullahoma, has been indicted on two counts of abuse of a corpse, according to Craig Northcott, district attorney for Tennessee’s 14th Judicial District. McCann was arraigned on the charges Friday morning in Coffee County Circuit Court.
Northcott said in a statement that Tullahoma police officers were called Nov. 13 to Watts N Storage, where a storage unit’s contents had recently been auctioned off. The prosecutor told the Chattanooga Times Free Press last week that the contents of the unit consisted of a single cooler.
The remains were inside the cooler.
“Upon inspection of the remains, it was not readily apparent if they were human,” the prosecutor said in his statement.
A medical examiner ultimately determined that the remains were those of a human newborn.
Upon checking the storage company’s records, detectives learned that McCann had rented the unit continuously since March 1994. She was in her mid-30s at the time.
“Officers with the Tullahoma Police Department discovered that she rented the unit for the sole purpose of storing the remains of her full-term newborn baby, which she delivered at home a few days prior to renting the unit,” Northcott said.
The baby’s cause of death has not been determined, the Times Free Press reported. Northcott said the autopsy report could take months to complete due to a case backlog.
It was unclear if DNA testing on the badly decomposed remains is possible.
Tullahoma police Chief Jason Williams told the newspaper in an email that his department is dedicated to resolving the cold case, despite the difficulty.
“Any investigation involving a child is difficult, especially during the Christmas season,” Williams wrote.
Northcott said the bizarre case was “certainly unusual” for his jurisdiction, which consists of Coffee County, which is located in central Tennessee about 70 miles northwest of Chattanooga.
“This is the first one of this nature that I have handled personally,” Northcott told the paper.
In a statement on Facebook, Northcott spoke out about the circumstances of the case.
“Heartbreaking, but I hope we can give this baby a little bit of a voice,” he wrote.
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