Old Lycoming Township woman faces abuse of corpse charges


Charges of abuse of corpse and related crimes have been filed against a 38-year-old Old Lycoming Township woman, who, after giving birth to what she said was a dead baby in her house, took the infant from the area and traveled with a friend to Wilkes-Barre to get medical care.

The day after “smoking crack cocaine and using heroin” one night last month, Chesney Anne Wheeler gave birth to a premature 29-week-old baby girl, township police said.

Fearing police would discover drugs in her system if she sought medical treatment at a local hospital, Wheeler wrapped the baby in a blanket and put her in a cardboard box, according to court papers.

Later that same day, April 13, a friend, Robin Villa, drove Wheeler in Wheeler’s car to the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital to get medical care. The cardboard box with the baby had been placed in the back of the car, police said.

“While Wheeler was at the hospital, she provided false information to the staff, telling them she had a miscarriage at a home in Benton and that she may have flushed the baby down the toilet,” Sgt. Detective Christopher Kriner wrote in an affidavit.

Suspicious of the validity of Wheeler’s story, the hospital notified the Wilkes-Barre police. During an interview with detectives, Villa said “the baby was in a box in Wheeler’s vehicle, which was parked in the hospital’s parking lot,” Kriner said.

Villa said she did not know the baby was in the vehicle until Wheeler told her while the two were on their way to Wilkes-Barre.

Officers found the dead baby in the box just as Villa had told them, Kriner said, adding that “the baby was beginning to decompose because it had been in the car for an extended period of time.”

Once investigators learned that the baby was actually born at Wheeler’s home at 450 Colvin Road, township police were alerted and responded to Wilkes-Barre to interview her.

“I wasn’t exactly thrilled about being pregnant, that’s the truth,” Wheeler, an admitted heroin and cocaine addict, told investigators, Kriner said.

Wheeler said when she gave birth, she could tell “it was dead” because the infant was “stiff,” Kriner said.

When asked why she didn’t call 911 when she went into labor or immediately after giving birth, she told police she “knew the baby was dead and thought she did something wrong,” Kriner said.

“She said she wrapped the baby in a blanket, and then laid on the floor before passing out,” Kriner said.

After she woke up, she put the baby in a cardboard box, which she placed on the backseat of her vehicle. Kriner said Wheeler told investigators.

The woman told police that before she and Villa traveled to Wilkes-Barre, she made not one, but two, trips to a local drug treatment clinic, Kriner said. She also stopped back at her house to clean her bathroom, where the baby was born, the investigator said, adding that the woman admitted to smoking crack cocaine and using heroin the night before.

“Wheeler also expressed concern over how the baby’s death would affect a criminal case” involving her husband, who is on probation in Lycoming County, Kriner said.

Wheeler, already in the Lycoming County Prison on a probation violation, was arraigned Monday before District Judge William Solomon on misdemeanor charges of abuse of corpse, tampering with evidence, obstructing the administration of law and flight to avoid apprehension or punishment. She was recommitted in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Township Police Chief Joseph Hope said an autopsy on the baby was “inconclusive” and police were awaiting the results of toxicology tests to see if any drugs may have played a role in her death.

Wheeler’s husband, Richard Wheeler, 35, also is a county prison inmate. He is awaiting trial on township police charges of aggravated assault and related offenses for allegedly kicking Chesney in the stomach when she was pregnant in late January. The alleged assault occurred at the couple’s home, police said.


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