North Carolina Couple Charged With First-Degree Murder After Baby's Remains Are Found Buried In Backyard

Side-by-side police photos of Riddle, L, and Vandyke, R
Harnett County Jail

After a family member provided a tip to the police, Dustin Vandyke, 28, and Gracie Riddle, 18, have been charged in the murder of their child, who authorities suspect has been dead since November of last year.

A North Carolina couple is being charged in connection to the murder of their baby after the child was found buried in their backyard, according to local reports.

According to local outlet CBS 11, Dustin Vandyke, 28, and Gracie Riddle, 18, have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of their child. 

Local police received a tip on Friday night from a family member of the couple about an unreported death on Moulton Spring Road in Erwin, North Carolina, according to local outlet WRAL.

According to the outlet, authorities believe this person knew about the incident prior to calling it in, but is just now coming forward.

“This person, and I’m sure there’s other people with knowledge of the incident through word of mouth or whatever, I think this person just finally got to a point where their conscious got to them and they decided they needed to talk about it and tell someone. And that’s how we initially got the report,” Johnson said to the outlet.

According to CBS 11, that night authorities obtained a warrant, interviewed several people in the area, and searched Vandyke and Riddle’s home.  

A cadaver dog was used to aid in their investigation, and the K-9s helped find the remains of the baby’s decomposed body in the couple's backyard, according to ABC 11.

According to outlet WRAL, authorities believe the baby died around Thanksgiving of 2021 when he or she was a newborn.

“Anytime you’re dealing with a death or homicide, it’s sad for everyone involved,” Erwin Police Chief Jonathan Johnson said to CBS 11. 

According to the outlet, the sex of the baby is currently known and the death does not appear to be accidental.

“You just never know what somebody is going through or why somebody would do the things they do. You just have to be vigilant and report anything suspicious.”

A neighbor spoke with WTDV and said, "Where the child was buried, there was a lawn mower that sat there for a long time. And it was a nice lawn mower, but it never moved. We just figured that something was wrong with it. And it was just sitting there. Now the lawn mower moved in the last month, so now this child is uncovered.” 

According to the outlet, Vandyke and Riddle saw a judge on Monday. The couple will be appointed a public defender, and their next court appearance is scheduled for September 6, and they will remain in jail without bond.

Local reports say officials are waiting on autopsy results for an official cause of death.

According to KKTV, Johnson says this is an isolated incident and there is no danger to the public.

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