Texas mother arrested for allegedly killing son, 6, found along South Berwick road

The Associated Press
Posted May 18, 2011, at 1:37 p.m.

BOSTON — A Texas woman whose 6-year-old son was found dead last weekend in Maine stands accused of killing the boy and dumping his body alongside a dirt road where it was discovered, authorities said.

Julianne McCrery, 42, of Irving, Texas, was charged with second-degree murder Wednesday in the death of her son, Camden Hughes. The police apprehension of her earlier in the day set off a rapid-fire chain of events in which jurisdiction shifted from Maine, where the boy’s body was discovered, to Massachusetts, where McCrery was found and questioned, and finally to New Hampshire, where authorities believe the boy died and the formal charges were ultimately filed.

McCrery was due to be arraigned Thursday morning in Concord, Mass., on a charge of being a fugitive from justice stemming from the murder charge, said New Hampshire Attorney General Michael A. Delaney.

Preliminary autopsy findings showed that the cause of Camden’s death was asphyxiation and the manner of death was homicide, according to Maine’s chief medical examiner. The homicide remains under investigation.

Texas public records show that McCrery was arrested at least twice on prostitution charges and once for possession with intent to distribute drugs. In 2009, she was sentenced to one year in prison for a misdemeanor conviction of prostitution. In 2004, she was sentenced to three years of probation for a felony conviction of possession of a controlled substance.

The voicemail was full for a Texas phone listing for McCrery.

Her son died Saturday, the same day his body was discovered by a local resident in South Berwick, Maine, near the state line with New Hampshire, officials said. He had not been reported missing, and amid several frustrating days seeking his identity, Maine State Police had released a computer-generated image showing a boy with dirty blond hair and blues eyes.

Christian von Atzigen, of Irving, Texas, said he told police he recognized the boy as the son of McCrery, a woman he and his wife have been close friends with since she and his wife met in school 15 years ago.

“We didn’t want to believe it,” von Atzigen said.

“Julie’s a good person. If you would ever ask me if she would harm a hair on that precious little boy’s head, I would say never,” he told The Associated Press. “She loves that boy.”

Von Atzigen said that after McCrery and her husband divorced, he and his wife remained friends with both of them. He said Camden was a happy boy, and he never heard McCrery raise her voice to him.

“I never even saw her discipline him,” he said. “He was just a great little boy, just fun, a good kid, smart as a whip,” he said.

Von Atzigen said he last saw McCrery on Easter, when she came to his house to get a part to fix her hot water heater. While she was there, she dropped off some of Camden’s toys for his 2-year-old son, he said.

He said he doesn’t know why McCrery was in Maine.

“My wife talked to her a couple of days ago and everything seemed OK,” he said. “There was no mention of her going anywhere.”

It’s extremely unusual for a missing child to go unreported. Similar cases happened only twice over the past two years, said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“In the vast, vast majority of these, there’s someone, a parent or grandparent, searching for that child,” Allen said.

On Wednesday, a telephone tip led police to McCrery at a highway rest stop in Chelmsford, Mass., said state police spokesman David Procopio.

In Maine, the case has led to an outpouring of emotion. Several hundred people attended a candlelight vigil in the boy’s memory Tuesday night in front of the South Berwick town hall.

Near where the boy was found, people have placed three crosses, dozens of stuffed animals, candles, flowers, a baseball and other children’s items. A framed piece of paper says, “God Bless This Little Boy.”

Bruce and Laurie Ralph, who live down the street from where the body was found, placed a stuffed animal on the site.

“The whole community has come together and has feelings for this boy, who nobody seems to know who he is,” Laurie Ralph said Wednesday as she and her husband visited the site. “You hear of missing children all the time, but when it happens in your hometown — and on your own street — it’s scarier.”

___

Contreras reported from Concord, Mass. Associated Press writers David Sharp in Portland, Maine; Clarke Canfield in Alfred, Maine; and Kathy McCormack in Concord, N.H.; contributed to this report.

Update, 12:30 a.m.:

Prosecutors say a Texas woman has been arrested in Massachusetts following accusations that she killed her young son, whose body was found along a dirt road in Maine.

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office says 42-year-old Julianne McCrery of Irving, Texas, was arrested Wednesday on a fugitive-of-justice charge from Concord, Mass. That occurred after prosecutors issued an arrest warrant on a second-degree murder charge in the death of Camden Hughes in Hampton, N.H., on Saturday.

Prosecutors say preliminary autopsy results show the cause of Camden’s death is asphyxiation.

McCrery is expected to be arraigned Thursday in Concord District Court.

Previous story:

CONCORD, Mass. — Police in Massachusetts took a woman to a hospital for a medical evaluation after questioning her for several hours Wednesday in the investigation of the death of a young boy who never was reported missing and whose body was found along a dirt road in Maine.

The boy, who was found dead Saturday along a road in South Berwick, Maine, has been identified as 6-year-old Camden Pierce Hughes of Texas.

The woman was taken into custody at a highway rest stop, where she was found inside a pickup truck that matched the description of a vehicle seen near the spot where the boy’s body was found Saturday in South Berwick. The pickup is registered to Julianne McCrery of Irving, Texas, police said.

Christian von Atzigen of Irving said he called Maine State Police on Wednesday after seeing a computer-generated photo of the boy and recognizing him as Camden Pierce Hughes. He said the boy is the son of McCrery, a woman with whom he and his wife have been friends for 15 years.

A telephone tip led police to the woman Wednesday at the Interstate 495 rest stop in Chelmsford, Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio said.

Several troopers who went to the rest stop engaged the woman in conversation, and she agreed to go to state police barracks for questioning. She has not yet been charged in the boy’s death, which Maine officials have described as suspicious.

After several hours of questioning, Procopio said, state police decided to have the woman taken to a hospital for a medical evaluation. “It was not a critical medical emergency,” he said.

At a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Procopio refused to confirm the woman’s name or her relationship to the child. Police also declined say whether the woman made any incriminating statements during questioning or what transpired during the encounter with police at the rest stop.

The voicemail was full for a Texas phone listing for McCrery.

ABC reported that sources said the woman confessed to accidentally giving the boy too much cough syrup. She also reportedly told a Massachusetts state trooper that she killed her son and was contemplating killing herself, sources told ABC News.

Investigators have fielded more than 200 tips since the boy’s body was found. Police also conducted DNA tests on the body, released a detailed photo of the boy’s sneakers and notified Interpol.

On Wednesday, the police discovery of the woman set off a rapid-fire chain of events.

In Maine, state police Lt. Brian McDonough told reporters that detectives were investigating new information but referred all questions to Deputy Attorney General William Stokes. Stokes, who coordinates homicide investigations in Maine, told The Associated Press that he couldn’t comment.

By day’s end, New Hampshire investigators had taken over the case. New Hampshire officials advised that there would be no comment until Thursday, Maine officials said.

Procopio said a recent development has led to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office taking control of the case.

The Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire State Police and several other agencies, such as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, have been investigating the case.

If New Hampshire decides to seek charges against the woman, she would be considered a fugitive from justice in Massachusetts and would not be allowed to go home from the hospital, Procopio said.

Jeffery Strelzin, New Hampshire’s senior assistant attorney general, confirmed that the state is involved in the investigation, but had no further comment.

During a briefing Tuesday, police said that a witness who saw a dark-blue truck near where the boy’s body was found Saturday in South Berwick noticed some type of Navy insignia near the license plate. The witness believed the truck was being driven by a woman who was the only occupant, McDonough said.

The tips poured in after police released a computer-generated image of the boy on Sunday, a day after his body was discovered by a local resident.

Investigators believe the boy was placed alongside a dirt road nine to 10 hours before his body was discovered around 5 p.m. Saturday.

In Maine, the case has led to an outpouring of emotion. Several hundred people attended a candlelight vigil in the boy’s memory Tuesday night in front of the South Berwick Town Hall.

On Facebook, a page titled “Rest in Peace Camden Pierce Hughes” had more than 3,000 followers a few hours after the news of his identity broke.

Near where the boy was found, people have placed three crosses, dozens of stuffed animals, candles, flowers, a baseball and other children’s items. A framed piece of paper says “God Bless This Little Boy.”

Bruce and Laurie Ralph, who live down the street from where Camden’s body was found, placed a stuffed animal on the site.

“The whole community has come together and has feelings for this boy, who nobody seems to know who he is,” Laurie Ralph said Wednesday as she and her husband visited the site. “You hear of missing children all the time, but when it happens in your hometown — and on your own street — it’s scarier.”

It’s extremely unusual for a missing child to go unreported. Similar cases happened only twice over the past two years, said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“In the vast, vast majority of these, there’s someone, a parent or grandparent, searching for that child,” Allen said Wednesday.

In April 2010, the body of a 6-year-old boy was discovered near a lake in north Texas and his grandmother eventually was charged with murder; in May 2009, a 3-year-old boy’s body was found buried at a playground in Albuquerque, N.M., and his mother eventually was charged with killing him.

In both cases, family members failed to report the boys missing.

“In cases where children are murdered or disposed of, typically the perpetrator is the one who should be reporting the child missing,” Allen said.

Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie, Russell Contreras, Clarke Canfield in Alfred, Maine, David Sharp in Portland, Maine, and Kathy McCormack in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/05/18/news/report-person-in-custody-in-death-of-boy-found-along-south-berwick-road/ printed on July 24, 2014