BERKS COUNTY, Pa. — A Berks County couple is facing criminal charges after police say they hid the body of their infant daughter in a plastic container filled with cat litter in a crawlspace inside their West Lawn home, according to the Berks County District Attorney’s Office.
Samantha Trump, 27, and Shaun Oxenreider, 25, are charged with abuse of a corpse, concealing the whereabouts of a child and criminal conspiracy, according to a criminal complaint.
Spring Township police began an investigation when two relatives of Oxenreider contacted them, reporting that they’d heard about the death of the 6-month old baby, the criminal complaint says.
Officials are still trying to determine how and when the child died. An autopsy has been scheduled.
Police say a relative of Oxenreider told them he’d heard several stories about what happened to the baby and who paid for the funeral expenses from Oxenreider, according to the criminal complaint.
Police spoke to a Berks County Children and Youth Services caseworker to follow up with the report, the criminal complaint says. The caseworker spoke to Oxenreider and Trump on the phone, then told police their statements were suspicious. The caseworker also told police she could find no record of the baby’s name with either Trump or Oxenreider as a last name at any Berks-area hospital, or at the funeral home where the couple said they had the baby’s remains cremated.
When asked to provide a death certificate for the child, Trump told the caseworker that she and Oxenreider were in New Jersey visiting a relative, and would not be back until after Easter, according to the criminal complaint.
On Monday night, the criminal complaint says, a relative drove past the couple’s home and saw Oxenreider’s vehicle parked outside. The relative contacted police, who went to the home to investigate.
The couple initially did not allow police inside, the criminal complaint says. Officers spoke to Trump through the door while Oxenreider attended to the couple’s other child.
As the investigating officer and child protective services officials arrived on the scene, Oxenreider left the home, and Trump remained at the door, the criminal complaint says. Trump then dropped to the ground and went into convulsions during questioning by investigators. She was taken to Reading Hospital for treatment, according to the criminal complaint.
Police continued to speak to Oxenreider. Shortly after midnight, they asked his permission to search the home, the criminal complaint says. Officers made it clear that they wanted to look in spaces that could potentially conceal a child.
Oxenreider agreed to the search.
Police eventually searched a locked bathroom, that Oxenreider opened with a key. Inside they discovered used diapers, pictures of the baby, and baby clothing. A door inside the bathroom leading to a crawl space was also found. When police looked inside, they found a large plastic container with the lid snapped shut, the criminal complaint says. The container was filled with cat litter.
Officers noticed a plastic trash bag sticking out of the litter. When the bag was pulled out and cut open, the criminal complaint says, police discovered the child’s body inside.
Oxenreider was arrested without incident, according to the Berks County District Attorney’s Office. Trump remains a patient at a Reading hospital and is being kept under guard by the Berks County Sheriff’s Department.
Bail information for Oxenreider was not available.