Local News

Harnett sheriff retains custody of baby's body

Posted May 1, 2009 10:29 a.m. EDT

— For more than 18 months, the family of a little girl who died under mysterious circumstances has waited to bury her. But the body remains locked up in the Harnett County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies found the remains of 11-month-old Harmony Jade Creech in her mother's attic in October 2007. The baby had been wrapped in a plastic bag and stuffed in an empty diaper box in a corner of the attic, authorities said.

The body was so badly decomposed that medical examiners have never been able to determine a cause of death.

Yet the skeletal remains are considered crucial evidence in the murder case against Harmony's mother, and Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks ordered that the Harnett County Sheriff's Office retain custody of the remains until after a trial.

Johni Michelle Heuser, 25, of 1680 Ray Road in Spring Lake, has been charged with first-degree murder in the case.

When the child's father, Sgt. Ronald Creech II, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, returned from a 15-month deployment in Iraq, Heuser claimed the baby had been abducted, prompting a statewide Amber Alert.

She later told investigators that she found the baby dead in her crib weeks earlier and hid the death out of fear.

"When my son got home from Iraq, he was supposed to take leave and bring her so I could see her for the first time," Harmony's grandfather, Ron Creech, said in a telephone interview from his Alabama home. "What it's done to my son and the problems he's experiencing because of this and to have to deal with this on a daily basis and not able to get his baby back, it's just one big nightmare."

The Harnett County District Attorney's Office said the state and the defense teams might require additional testing on the remains before the murder trial because no cause of death has been determined.

A trial date for Heuser hasn't been set.

Ron Creech said he finds the situation incredulous. Harmony's remains have been sent to Texas and Canada for several months of tests, as well as to the State Medical Examiner's Office in Chapel Hill, he said, and "enough is enough."

"Send the baby on. We're ready to put her in the ground. We're ready to get this over with," he said.