Markham cold case: Charges filed in 2017 death of baby Jane Doe

The mother of a baby girl who was found dead inside a burning home in a Markham house fire in 2017 has been arrested and charged, police announced on Thursday.

Melody Townsend, 40, was brought back to Illinois from California, police said at a news conference. She was arrested on a warrant issued last summer that charged her with concealment of a homicide.

However, Markham Police Chief Jack Genius told reporters that Townsend was facing charges of child endangerment and concealing and aiding a fugitive. He did not explain the discrepancy but said other charges could be filed.

The chief added others will likely be arrested and charged.

"The ultimate goal is still to find out who killed this child, how this child died. This child deserves justice," said Genius. "We’ve had her in our mind for many years."

Ana Marie Townsend was pulled from the wreckage of a fire at a vacant home on July 3, 2017, at 15481 Hamlin St. in the south suburb.

"It weighed down the entire city," said Genius. "I mean, we have neighbors that live there. They live next to a house where a child's body was found and for years they were worried and scared."

The baby, believed to have been less than a year old, had been listed as "baby Jane Doe" because no one came forward to claim her remains. She was not identified until two years later through DNA tests.


In the days after her death, Markham police released a photo showing clothing similar to that worn by the baby at the time she was found.

"The child is still crying because the other people that was involved with this is not in custody yet," said community activist Andrew Holmes. "To the father or the boyfriend — your day may be coming too. You know, what do you know?"

The Cook County medical examiner’s office has ruled Ana Marie's death a homicide.

While the office has not determined what caused her death, it noted the girl had suffered physical trauma not related to the fire.

Melody Townsend was ordered held on a $20,000 bond on Friday.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.