Irving Woman Arrested in Son's Death

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Julianne McCrery and her son Camden Pierce Hughes.

    Police in Massachusetts arrested an Irving woman late Wednesday in the death of her 6-year-old, son whose blanket-covered body was found Saturday along a dirt road in Maine.

    Julianne McCrery, 42, was apprehended in Massachusetts earlier in the day. She was charged with being a fugitive from justice stemming from a second-degree murder charge in New Hampshire, where authorities say her son, Camden Hughes, was killed Saturday, New Hampshire Attorney General Michael A. Delaney said.

    Former Boyfriend Says Irving Mom "Adored" Son

    [DFW] Former Boyfriend Says Irving Mom "Adored" Son
    The former boyfriend of a woman questioned in the death of her son says she "could not possibly" have killed him. (Published Wednesday, May 18, 2011)

    WHDH, the NBC affiliate in Boston, reported earlier that McCrery confessed to killing her son.

    Preliminary autopsy findings showed that the cause of Camden's death was asphyxiation and the manner of death was homicide, according to Maine's chief medical examiner, Dr. Margaret Greenwald. The homicide remains under investigation.

    Irving Woman's Truck Seized

    [DFW] Irving Woman's Truck Seized
    State Police took custody of Julianne McCrery's truck, it matches the description of a truck seen near where the boy's body was found. (Published Wednesday, May 18, 2011)

    Texas public records show that McCrery was arrested at least twice on prostitution charges and once for possession with intent to distribute drugs. In 2009, she was sentenced to one year in prison for a misdemeanor conviction of prostitution. In 2004, she was sentenced to three years of probation for a felony conviction of possession of a controlled substance.

    McCrery is to be arraigned Thursday in Massachusetts, in Concord District Court.

    Camden's body was discovered Saturday in South Berwick, Maine, a town on the New Hampshire border.

    McCrery was charged in New Hampshire because police believe the boy died in Hampton, where a state police command post was set up outside a motel on Wednesday.

    Former Boyfriend Says McCrery Adored Son

    Robert Miller, McCrery's former boyfriend, said McCrery "could not possibly" have killed her son.

    "She loved him dearly," he said. "She would never have done anything to harm him like this on purpose."

    Miller, of Irving, said he considers himself the closest thing Camden ever had to a father. He said McCrery adored her son and would read him a book she wrote titled "Good Night, Sleep Tight."

    He said McCrery had a troubled past before her son was born that included substance abuse and a suicide attempt.

    "She didn't like this world, but she didn't plan on leaving it," he said.

    Miller said McCrery and her son were battling upper-respiratory infections.

    "I just want to find out what happened," he said. "If she gave him too much cough syrup, then it would have been an accident; it wouldn't have been on purpose."

    Miller said he spoke with her by telephone as recently as Tuesday. She did not mention being in Maine, he said.

    "She sounded still sick, and I asked her how work was, and she said it wasn't going good," he said. "[I] asked if they were coming by after work, and she said she didn't know."

    Tip Led to Arrest

    A telephone tip led police to the woman at a highway rest stop in Chelmsford, Mass., said Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio.

    The Toyota Tacoma pickup truck towed from the rest stop is registered to McCrery.

    A source told WHDH that McCrery was sitting in the driver seat reading a Bible when police approached the truck, and she allegedly made statements referring to the case in Maine.

    McCrery voluntarily went with state police for questioning. Massachusetts police have contacted Irving police in reference to the case.

    Procopio said McCrery was taken to a hospital for a medical evaluation after several hours of questioning.

    "It was not a critical medical emergency," he said.

    No Child Reported Missing

    Investigators fielded more than 200 tips since the boy's body was found. Police also conducted DNA tests on the body, released a detailed photo of the boy's sneakers and notified Interpol.

    Police issued a computer-enhanced image depicting a boy with blond hair and blue eyes believed to be between 4 and 6 years old.

    Christian von Atzigen, of Irving, said he told police he recognized the boy as McCrery's son. He said he and his wife have been close friends with her for 15 years.

    "We didn't want to believe it," von Atzigen said.

    "Julie's a good person. If you would ever ask me if she would harm a hair on that precious little boy's head, I would say never," he told The Associated Press. "She loves that boy."

    It's extremely unusual for a missing child to go unreported. Similar cases happened only twice over the past two years, said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

    "In the vast, vast majority of these, there's someone, a parent or grandparent, searching for that child," Allen said Wednesday.

    In April 2010, the body of a 6-year-old boy was discovered near a lake in North Texas and his grandmother was eventually charged with murder; in May 2009, a 3-year-old boy's body was found buried at a playground in Albuquerque, N.M., and his mother was eventually charged with killing him.

    In both cases, family members failed to report the boys missing.

    "In cases where children are murdered or disposed of, typically the perpetrator is the one who should be reporting the child missing," Allen said.

    Outpouring of Emotion

    In Maine, the case has led to an outpouring of emotion. Several hundred people attended a candlelight vigil in the boy's memory Tuesday night in front of the South Berwick town hall.

    People have placed three crosses, dozens of stuffed animals, candles, flowers, a baseball and other children's items near where the boy was found. A framed piece of paper said, "God Bless This Little Boy."

    Bruce and Laurie Ralph, who live down the street from where the body was found, placed a stuffed animal on the site.

    "The whole community has come together and has feelings for this boy, who nobody seems to know who he is," Laurie Ralph said Wednesday as she and her husband visited the site. "You hear of missing children all the time, but when it happens in your hometown -- and on your own street -- it's scarier."

    NBC DFW's Ellen Goldberg and Associated Press writers Russell Contreras, Clarke Canfield in Alfred, Maine, and David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.