Authorities have little information on baby in river

  • Article by: RICHARD MERYHEW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 28, 2007 - 11:42 PM

A Goodhue County deputy says it'll be a 'daunting task' to determine details of newborn found in the Mississippi.

RED WING, MINN. -- They have recovered the tiniest of bodies, but almost nothing else.

They know the infant's sex, weight and color of hair, but they don't know how or why or when she died or who was responsible for dumping her in the icy river weeks or months ago.

What investigators also know, Goodhue County Chief Deputy Scott McNurlin said Wednesday, is that they face a "daunting task" in trying to solve the mystery of who put the newborn girl into the Mississippi River north of Red Wing sometime in the past six months.

"We're here to make a plea ... to the public," McNurlin said at a news conference in Red Wing. "If they know anything or if they heard anything or if they suspect something ... we want to know. We need to know."

The infant, the third to be found in the river's backwaters in Goodhue County in the past eight years, was discovered Monday by two marina workers near Treasure Island Resort & Casino. The marina is several miles upstream from Red Wing.

Authorities have said they have no evidence linking the death to the other cases, which remain unsolved. DNA tests on the first two infants, a girl and a boy found within 10 miles of each other in 1999 and 2003, showed that they were not related, McNurlin said Wednesday.

But DNA tests on the third baby probably won't be completed for weeks. Even then, determining the mother's identity will be difficult.

"I don't think there is a more difficult homicide case," said Pat Thompson, a Goodhue County Sheriff's captain. "But I will say this -- if we are pointed in the right direction, if we get the right break or the right call ... it will be over for that person."

During their news conference, authorities provided details about the case and their investigative plans.

Thompson said an autopsy showed that the infant was a newborn who weighed 7 pounds and was 21 inches long with long, black hair. Although investigators said earlier that the baby had probably been in the water since late fall, Thompson said that she could have been placed there as recently as one month ago.

The cause of death has not been determined, Thompson said. In the other cases, the babies were found with umbilical cords attached. Thompson declined to say whether the baby found this week had one.

Searching the riverbanks

Thompson said that most likely, the mother is someone very young or older than 40 who may have withdrawn from school or work to conceal a pregnancy.

Because the baby, as in the two other cases, was found in backwaters, authorities believe she was placed in the river or a tributary not far from where she was found. Thompson said a task force made up of several counties' and police agencies will begin canvassing a stretch of river north of where the baby was found in coming days.

Investigators also plan on talking with people who live and work in the area, as well as hunters and fishermen, McNurlin said.

The Goodhue County Sheriff's Office has set up a tipline at 1-866-887-4357.

"Anything they may have seen as unusual, we want to know about it," he said.

McNurlin said investigators also plan to search the small islands between the main channel and backwaters.

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