GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) — The woman accused in the death of two infants, including one later known as “Julie Valentine,” pleaded guilty in court Thursday to three charges in the case.
Brook Graham pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful neglect of a child and desecration of human remains.
The plea was accepted by the judge as an Alford plea. This means a defendant maintains their innocence but admits that the prosecution’s evidence would likely result in a guilty verdict if brought to trial.
“[The two counts of unlawful neglect of a child] are related to the two children that were found back in 1989 and 1990, in Greenville County, that had been left abandoned,” said Solicitor Walt Wilkins.
Police announced Graham’s arrest in early April 2019.
According to an arrest affidavit, Graham and her boyfriend, the child’s biological father, lived in close proximity to where the infant was abandoned.
Greenville Police said Graham is the birth mother of a newborn, known as “Julie Valentine”, who was found abandoned in a vacant lot on Hilton Street in 1990.
The baby was in a cardboard box, covered with bedding and rags, among garbage in a field.
Police said investigators determined the infant was full-term. It’s believed she was born three days before she was discovered.
In addition to ‘Julie Valentine,’ police said a baby boy was found dead in a garbage bag in 1989. That boy was also determined by police to be the biological child of Graham.
Graham was originally charged with murder in the case but that charge was dropped because medical examiners were unable to find out how the infant died, according to Solicitor Wilkins.
“The state, under the facts, that we were able to investigate with law enforcement, only allowed us to charge her with unlawful neglect and the desecration of human remains. She had initially been charged with murder, and we dismissed those cases because no medical examiner could prove how the children actual died, and if in fact they were actually living at the time of birth,” Wilkins said. “And that was due to the delay in finding the bodies and decomposition had set in and there was just no ability for any medical technology or any medical expert to say whether they were alive or not at birth.”
“The biggest issue that we had from a legal perspective is proving murder where you have to have a cause of death. And when someone has a child and leaves it, you have to prove the child was actually alive,” Wilkins said. “You have to kill a human being, and so in this particular case, no medical expert could prove that the child actually took a breath. So I had to prove there was at least one breath taken by the child, and I could not prove that, unfortunately.”
The infant’s body was found Feb. 13, 1990, by a man picking flowers to give his wife for Valentine’s Day.
Police announced in 2019 that DNA analysis concluded that Graham was the biological mother of Julie Valentine.
“Genealogy came back that the baby that had been born was half-Vietnamese and half-European,” said an attorney with the solicitors’ office. “Greenville PD went back through the file and saw where this defendant and her boyfriend who is Vietnamese had bought this type of vacuum [box] that the baby was left in.”
“Greenville County had also located a baby boy in April 1989 in a trash bag left in a wooded area that was the year prior,” she said.
The solicitors’ office said the father never knew Graham was pregnant.
“Her sister was also interviewed and she also said she had no idea the defendant was pregnant at the time,” the solicitors’ office said.
The judge did not make a decision on sentencing, instead ordering a pre-sentence investigation due to the unusual circumstances of the case.
The judge said out of over 30 years in law, he had never been confronted with anything like it.
“This is a very unique situation. A very unique factual pattern and unfortunately this is the best evidence that we have to get justice for these two children that were left abandoned 30 years ago,” Wilkins said. “We’re just glad to have this case moving forward in the right direction and we will be getting ready and getting prepared for sentencing at the appropriate time.”
Graham will remain free on bond during the pre-sentence investigation.
“Probation will then conduct an investigation, what is called a pre-sentence report and compile information about the defendant, about their health, their mental status as well as their prior record,” said Wilkins. “They’ll take the facts of our case and they’ll compile in a report so that the judge will have all of the information it needs and has the time to really focus on the case and decide what an appropriate sentence should be.”
Wilkins said this could take weeks or possibly months and Graham’s sentence will be given at a later date.
Solicitor Wilkins said the reason why there’s only one desecration charge, is because the desecration law did not exist at the time for the baby boy.
“The reason why there’s only one desecration, as both bodies were desecrated under the law, is that the desecration law did not exist at the time in 1989 for the baby boy,” Wilkins said. “For Julie Valentine, the law changed before she was born and abandoned in the woods.”