911 Call, New Details Emerge in Spring Lake Baby's Death
Posted October 22, 2007 9:36 a.m. EDT
Updated October 23, 2007 4:55 p.m. EDT
Lillington, N.C. — A Harnett County mother charged with killing her 11-month-old daughter sobbed and screamed while her mother reported the baby's disappearance to a Harnett County 911 dispatcher.
During the five-minute call Friday, Michelle Heuser sounded as if she were in hysterics and at one point, her mother told the dispatcher that Heuser was holding onto the baby's father, who had returned hours earlier from a 15-month deployment in Iraq, to get through the crisis.
Heuser, 25, showed no emotion, however, during a brief court hearing Monday when she faced a first-degree murder charge in the death of Harmony Jade Creech.
She responded "Yes, sir" when a judge asked if she understood the charge against her, and she asked the court to appoint a defense attorney for her.
"I haven't seen a lot of (remorse)," Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins said during a news conference about the investigation late Monday afternoon. "(She has been) a liar – deceptive right up to the point of just being back to the corner and can't go anywhere else. … I don't know that she's told the truth now."
Investigators found the child's body early Saturday afternoon wrapped in a plastic bag inside a diaper box in the attic of the Spring Lake home Heuser was renting.
"There were a number of other boxes and clothing and items that were in there," Rollins said. "And the box that her remains were in was very concealed and was even difficult for investigators to locate."
In addition to the diaper box, investigators seized trash bags filled with baby clothes and shoes, written directions to a nearby trash dump, a cell phone, a pipe, financial records and an X-Box video-gaming system, according to search warrants released Monday.
The gaming system can operate like a computer chat room. While not confirming the gaming link, FBI Supervisory Agent Greg Baker said agents are interviewing as many as five people along the East Coast about the case.
"They're looking at imaging hard drives, and we're looking to see if there's any individual in contact with the principal targets of the investigation," Baker said.
Heuser's mother called 911 Friday morning to report the baby missing, prompting authorities to issue a statewide Amber Alert and the FBI to dispatch a 32-member evidence response team from across the United States to Spring Lake to comb the house for evidence.
It was a meticulous search that led investigators to Harmony's body. They said they chose not to cancel the Amber Alert for several hours, however, so they did not compromise the interview with Hueser.
"At that point in our investigation, and in the interviews that were being conducted with Michelle, it would have been a great hindrance to have done so at that time," Rollins said.
Investigators were then able to get a statement from Hueser that the child had died some time ago and that she had concealed the death out of fear.
The FBI said she consented to a polygraph, which Rollins said "confirmed that we knew she was a habitual liar."
"She lied to us and everyone else from the start right up until the time she had to explain that child's remains in that attic," he said. "She got to the point where she couldn't get around not answering the question."
Warrants indicated that investigators thought the child might have died sometime in September. They sent the baby's remains to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill to determine a cause and time of death.
Meanwhile, Hueser's three other children – twin boys and a girl – are in foster care.
Harmony's father, Sgt. Ronald Creech II, who is in the 82nd Airborne Division, has asked for privacy for him and his family as they cope with their loss. He released a statement Monday afternoon, however.
"Harmony's mother was good at deceiving everyone who would ask about Harmony and where she was," 82nd Airborne spokesman Maj. Tom Earnhardt read on behalf of Creech. "The stories were credible and everyone believed her. My goal for the last year was to complete my mission and return home to my children. I have returned home to a tragedy I would not wish upon any parent of any child."
"I think my heart goes out to him the most," Rollins said. "It's been very traumatic for him, being deployed for 15 months, returning thinking he's coming back to a family unit that he's going to enjoy and then have to be faced with this."
"You can imagine the emotional state he was in and still is," the sheriff added.