A Chesterfield County woman has been charged with aborting a late-term fetus she was carrying whose remains were later discovered buried in the backyard of her home.
A Chesterfield grand jury on March 20 indicted Michelle Frances Roberts, 43, on a charge of producing an abortion or miscarriage “with intent to destroy her unborn child,” a class 4 felony.
Chesterfield police said they received information in February 2016 that human skeletal remains were buried in the backyard of an address at 6219 Philbrook Road in the county’s Meadowbrook area. Investigators contacted Roberts, a resident of that address, and she advised that the remains were in fact buried in the backyard of a home there.
Investigators obtained a search warrant, and further investigation revealed that the remains had been disposed of about five to six months earlier. Forensic investigators were called to excavate a small area where fetal remains were located, police said.
The remains were recovered and sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for an examination and autopsy, police said.
After what police described as a lengthy consultation with the medical examiner’s office, which included the expertise of a forensic anthropologist called in to assist, the results of an investigation were discussed with the Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors presented the case to a March grand jury, which handed up an indictment against Roberts.
Police said their investigation indicates that Roberts’ fetus was aborted during her third trimester of pregnancy. Police and prosecutors declined to say how they believe the fetus was aborted or provide its cause of death.
A spokesman for the medical examiner’s office could not immediately locate its report on the case late Monday.
An affidavit used to obtain a search warrant for the residence where the remains were found said police learned of the situation from the mother of Roberts’ long-time boyfriend, Danny Coppola, who is believed to have been the unborn baby’s father. Before Coppola was sent to prison, he told his mother that Roberts was pregnant with his child.
Coppola’s mother told police that Roberts admitted in July 2015 that she was five months pregnant at the time and, based on her calculations, Roberts was due to deliver in September or October 2015, according to the affidavit.
During this period, Roberts was receiving low doses of methadone about four times a week from the Richmond Southside Treatment Center on Jefferson Davis Highway, the affidavit said. Roberts had been going to the clinic since 2012.
On Oct. 14, 2015, Coppola’s mother noticed that Roberts no longer appeared to be pregnant but Roberts did not directly confirm it, the affidavit says.
In November or December 2015, after Roberts’ daughter’s boyfriend blurted out during a domestic dispute, “You better watch yourself because I know what’s buried in the backyard,” Coppola’s mother asked Roberts what was buried there, the affidavit says.
Roberts explained she had given birth to a baby in the house but passed out shortly after delivering the child. When Roberts woke up, Roberts’ daughter told her the baby had died and she and her boyfriend wrapped it in a blanket, put it in a box and buried it, according to the affidavit.
However, Coppola’s mother told her sister that Roberts “had a miscarriage at home,” the affidavit says.
Police obtained three letters that Coppola had written to his mother while he was incarcerated at the Augusta Correctional Center, and in two of the letters Coppola made mention of Roberts’ baby.
During a March 7, 2016, search of Roberts’ former home, where she lived with her stepfather, police recovered the human remains, two cellphones, a thumb drive, a white tablet and a journal, according to an inventory of items seized.
Roberts, whose most recent address is listed as the zero block of Orchard Hill Drive, was arrested Wednesday. She is being held in the Chesterfield Jail.
A status hearing in the case has been set for April 24 in Chesterfield Circuit Court.