In April 2016, police were called to a one-story brick home with a white door and red shutters in Smithfield. Under that home were trash bags containing the remains of two infants, according to the state medical examiner’s office.
Bridgette Morgan Smith, the woman accused of hiding the bags containing the remains, appeared in court on Thursday and pleaded guilty to two counts of failure to report a death. Each count carries a sentence of 39 months, for a total of 78 months, as part of a plea agreement.
Smith was sentenced to six months minimum, eight months maximum for each count and will receive credit for 164 days already served. She could be eligible for release in about 200 more days.
Police named Smith, 41, a person of interest in the investigation last year. Smith is the daughter of Pamela McBride, who rented the home on Hartley Drive where the remains were found.
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Smith was charged in June with hiding the infants’ deaths, 14 months after they were discovered in trash bags.
Smith was arrested in Jacksonville, Fla., in June on two North Carolina felony charges of concealing the death of a child. Smith was extradited to North Carolina on June 26 and taken before a Johnston County magistrate where her $30,000 bond was set. She was then booked into the Johnston County Jail.
Smith was charged under a North Carolina law that states: “Any person who, with the intent to conceal the death of a person, fails to notify a law enforcement authority of the death or secretly buries or otherwise secretly disposes of a dead human body is guilty of a Class I felony.”
Police said last year that they had located Smith during their investigation, but they did not say where she was or what she told them.
Discovering the remains
Smith’s mother, McBride, told police her son, James Morgan, found two black trash bags under the house at 102 Hartley St. while running a cable through the crawl space in 2016. He described the bags as “squishy.” He looked inside one of the bags, and “recognized that it contained remains of something once living,” according to a search warrant.
An officer checked inside one of the bags and saw a human foot, “approximately the size of a newborn’s foot,” among other remains. The remains of two infants were wrapped in separate trash bags, with towels wrapped around the remains inside the bags, according to a search warrant.
McBride told police that Smith has battled a drug addiction “her entire life,” including cocaine and methamphetamine. McBride said Smith had lived with her off and on, sometimes for months at a time.
McBride also told police she has custody of Smith’s children – an 8-year-old daughter and a toddler son. She said she knew of a child her daughter put up for adoption after getting pregnant as a teenager.
She estimated her daughter had been pregnant about 10 times, but could only account for three children from those pregnancies. She told police her daughter wore oversized hoodies – even in the summer – to conceal her pregnancies, and would leave for weeks when she could no longer conceal her condition.
Smith would come back no longer pregnant, without saying where the infants were, McBride said, adding that one time, Smith said she abandoned a child at a hospital. Another time, McBride said there was a “blood trail” leading to Smith’s bedroom after she had locked herself in the bathroom for hours with bathwater running.
In the April 2016 search warrant, police seized evidence including: a bottle of prenatal vitamins, five appointment letters for prenatal care at UNC Healthcare dated from early 2015, five department of social services letters addressed to Smith and a diary.
The two infants would have been about 3 and 5 years old today, if they had lived.
During Smith’s court appearance on Thursday, Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle said that DNA evidence showed that both infants were related to Smith and that Smith’s mother said the remains were her daughter’s children.
Autopsies for the remains showed that both were fetal remains of about 36-42 weeks with no traumatic injuries. The state medical examiner’s office was not able to determine whether or not the children were born alive, but there is was physical evidence to suggest they had been alive when they were born, Doyle said. One was born about five years ago and another about three years ago, Smith told investigators.
While Doyle described the remains of the children, Smith sniffed frequently and wiped her face with a tissue.
Doyle said that in interviews, Smith admitted to being a “heavy drinker” and using drugs for many years, including methamphetamine, cocaine, pills and uppers.
Smith told investigators that the children were born at the home where their remains were found, Doyle said. Smith said during both births, she delivered the children over the toilet and that the children showed no signs of life – they were not breathing or crying when they were born. Smith told investigators she lifted the infants out of the toilet, wrapped them in towels and then placed them in trash bags before hiding them beneath the house.
“She was so scared, she didn’t tell,” Smith’s defense attorney told the court on Thursday.
“This defendant showed an utter disregard for the lives of her children,” Doyle said. “She chose to treat them like trash.”