After almost five years, a county coroner in Illinois has won permission to bury two baby girls found in the trunk of their mother's car, helping to close the door on what the coroner says has been the most difficult case of her career. Investigators were never able to determine whether infant sisters Mariah Renee Stockton and Gracie Lynn Stockton were born alive, the Rockford Register Star reports. Their mother, Katie Stockton of Rockford, is serving 50 years in prison for the murder of a third daughter, named Baby Crystal by investigators, whose body was found frozen to death near her family's home just before Christmas 2004. DNA tests revealed that the three girls all had different fathers.
It took years for police to identify Stockton as Crystal's mother, and after her arrest in 2009, the bodies of the two girls were found under a pile of trash in her trunk. Until now, the bodies were kept in the office of Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia. "They were children thrown away like trash," she says. "We felt they needed to be near us and close to us, that we needed to give them some dignity." At a public service, they will be laid to rest near their sister, whose funeral photo Fiduccia has on her office wall. "We gave her dignity, we gave her love. Baby Crystal was very much remembered, Baby Crystal was very much a person, and the community showed how much they loved her," she tells WIFR. (Read more Katie Stockton stories.)