Infant death shocks some residents

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 25, 2001

WATERPROOF, La. – Residents of nearby towns reacted with shock and sadness to the arrest last week of a Tensas Parish couple who allegedly killed their newborn baby, then hid the child’s body in their Texas Road home.

&uot;I don’t ever remember anything like this happening before,&uot; said one of several people living in and around Waterproof who would speak of the tragedy but wouldn’t give his name.

&uot;It’s been 10 or 15 years since we had our last (alleged) murder here, but I&160;can’t ever remember a child being killed,&uot; he said. &uot;You don’t think anything like this could happen in Tensas Parish.&uot;

Andrew Wade Miller, 26, and April Elise Hrenko, 22, were arrested by state police early last week on first-degree murder charges. They allegedly killed their baby on March 8, shortly after he was born.

With tips from child protection services and information from Hrenko, Tensas Parish sheriff’s deputies entered the couple’s home on March 16 and found the baby’s body in a closet, wrapped in newspapers.

On Saturday morning, groups of local residents still stopped in the midst of buying groceries and farm supplies to talk about the baby’s death. Some raised their voices in disbelief; others talked in grim, flat tones, their eyes on the floor.

&uot;People are still talking about it,&uot; said one man, standing at a store’s counter. &uot;I was gone last week, and when I&160;came back, one of my cousins … told me.&uot; If the allegations are true, he added, &uot;That’s a terrible thing to do to a baby.&uot;

Many of Miller’s relatives live near the end of Texas Road, southwest of the tiny town of Waterproof and several miles from U.S. 65, the main road bisecting the town.

&uot;They stay to themselves, but they’ve always seemed like good people,&uot; said one young man.

That made it all the more difficult to determine whether rumors of a baby’s death were true, said some residents. Then news of the arrests began to spread last week via newspapers and television news, and residents began to give more credence to the reports.

&uot;I heard it through word of mouth. My first instinct was to take it with a grain of salt,&uot; said one man who grew up near the area where the Millers live. &uot;Then it began to get bigger and bigger, and I saw it on the news so I&160;said, ‘There must be something to it.’&uot;

A lifelong resident of the Waterproof area showed both sympathy for the family and disbelief about the nature of the alleged crime.

&uot;Andy seemed to be a little on the wild side. But I’ve got grown children, too, and I&160;know there’s only so much you can do about their behavior,&uot; he said. &uot;I&160;feel sorry for his parents and the whole family.

But while most locals would talk about their feelings regarding the baby’s death, they were also quick to point out that their names could not be used.

&uot;They do a lot of business here,&uot; said a man behind the counter of one store. &uot;And everybody knows everybody in a small town.&uot;

But managers and workers at stores in north Concordia Parish near the Tensas Parish line – stores at which the Millers shop – would give their names.

&uot;It’s terrible. I&160;see people all the time that would love to adopt a baby like that,&uot; Mildred Smith said while ringing up customers’ purchases at a Clayton convenience store.

&uot;You hear about people shooting each other, but those are adults,&uot; Smith said. &uot;You never hear about anything like this.&uot;

Randy Ward, owner of Ferriday Farm Equipment, skimmed over a newspaper article on the death but also didn’t realize at first the connection between the baby’s father and the Millers he knows.

&uot;I’ve known that family 30 years. I know (Andy’s) parents, and I’ve known them to be God-fearing people. They’ve got to be distraught. I&160;feel so sorry for them.&uot;