Infant's body is found in Mississippi

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 26, 2007 - 11:20 PM

For the third time in eight years, a dead baby was found in or near Goodhue County waters.

The body of an infant was discovered Monday afternoon in the Mississippi River marina at Treasure Island Resort & Casino.

Sadly, the people of Goodhue County have seen this before.

The discovery of the as-yet-unidentified child marks the third time in eight years that a baby's body has been found in or near water in Goodhue County, said Chief Sheriff's Deputy Scott McNurlin.

Authorities hope an autopsy pending in Hastings will tell them more about how the child died and how long he or she was in the water.

Officials are considering forming a task force to look into the unsolved deaths of the three babies.

For community members downriver, particularly those who turned out for the 2003 funeral of a baby boy found on the Lake Pepin shore southeast of Red Wing, the reaction is sure to be, "Oh no, not again," said Debby Bradley, an organizer of the funeral.

That baby boy, and a baby girl who was found in 1999 in the river in Red Wing, were buried without knowing who their parents were or why they were abandoned, McNurlin said. That is prompting the Sheriff's Office, he added, to consider forming a task force to review all three cases.

In addition, he said, authorities are looking into using DNA analysis to uncover any links between the babies and to provide leads in the current case, possibly by comparing the new infant's DNA with that of people identified through a tips line.

"[The three cases] are all -- at this time -- open homicides," McNurlin said.

The current case, too? he was asked. "Yes, all three," McNurlin replied. "They are suspicious deaths, to say the least."

Midday at the marina

About 12:44 p.m. Monday, Prairie Island tribal police notified the county, which has jurisdiction in matters involving the river, that a worker who was cleaning debris in the marina had discovered the body near slip 36 on Dock C of the marina at the tribe's casino.

The sheriff's water patrol helped recover the body.

McNurlin was not at the scene, he said, but he believed the infant to be very young, perhaps abandoned shortly after birth. He didn't know the baby's sex or ethnicity, he added.

According to a 1999 Star Tribune story, the baby girl found then had her umbilical cord still attached and was believed to have been in the water a week or two.

The boy found in 2003 had part of his umbilical cord attached, a Star Tribune story said. Authorities tried to determine at the time whether the boy was placed next to a brush pile, where he was found, or had washed ashore.

A casino spokeswoman referred calls about the baby found Monday to the Sheriff's Office.

In the two previous cases, McNurlin said, the Sheriff's Office received "literally hundreds of leads," but they went nowhere. At the time, he added, the Sheriff's Office was curious as to whether the cases were actually as uncommon as they seemed. They were assured by the FBI that to have such events occur in such a short time was "an anomaly," he said.

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