A North Carolina couple accused of murdering their baby and burying its remains in the backyard are cousins, a relative said.
Dustin James VanDyke, 28, and Gracie Kaylene Riddle, 18, reportedly “paniced” when they realized she was pregnant and the child was born alive, local NBC affiliate WRAL reported.
VanDyke and Riddle are now charged with first degree murder, prison records show.
The exact age and gender of the child have not been disclosed publicly, but Erwin, chief of police Jonathan Johnson, said detectives believe the baby was murdered in November 2021. to bury.
Police began investigating the two last Friday after a tipster the couple knew told investigators that VanDyke and Riddle had failed to report the death of their newborn baby last year. Police were given a warrant to search the property and were led to the decomposed body by a cadaver dog, Johnson said. VanDyke and Riddle were arrested the next day.
“Where the child was buried, there was a lawnmower that stood there for a long time,” one of VanDyke and Riddle’s neighbors told ABC11. “And it was a nice lawnmower, but it never moved. We just thought there was something wrong with it. And it just sat there. Now the lawnmower has moved in the past month, so now this child has been exposed.”
Additional charges are likely, according to police.
“I think this person finally got to the point where their conscience hit them and they decided they needed to talk about it and tell someone and that’s how we got the report initially,” Johnson told WRAL.
VanDyke and Riddle appeared in court on Monday, where a relative refused to answer questions from a CBS17 reporter. They remain in the Harnett County Jail and are due to appear in court again on September 6.
In the media, including on Monday, Johnson said he was “unwilling” to corroborate the stories of a family relationship between VanDyke and Riddle. However, a relative later confirmed to WRAL that the two are in fact cousins.
The death did not appear to be accidental, and autopsy results are pending, according to Johnson, who described the scene as “pretty horrific.”
“This is one that will stay with us for a while,” he said, noting that “if it’s a kid or a baby, it just makes it that much worse.”
Little information about VanDyke or Riddle has been made public. VanDyke’s social media footprint is littered with images of pickup trucks, Confederate flags, and dark aphorisms like, “Never trust the living.” On Instagram, VanDyke describes herself as a ‘Red for life’.
In an ominous 2014 Facebook post reviewed by The Daily Beast, VanDyke shared a photo of a red and white sign that reads, “NO TRESPASSING. We’re tired of hiding the bodies.’