Facebook’s ‘Baby Doe’ Baffles Cops
A sketch of the face of the toddler found dead on a Massachusetts island has been seen 47 million times on Facebook. So why can’t police identify her?
On Thursday June 25, a woman walking her dog by Massachusetts’ Deer Island shoreline spotted a 30-pound bundle wrapped in a plastic trash bag. She peered in. Inside was a zebra print fleece blanket, black and white polka-dot leggings, and the dead body of a 4-year-old child with brown eyes and long brown hair.
The woman sobbed. She called the police. There’s a dead baby in a bag, she told them.
The Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Suffolk County District Attorney arrived at the scene. State Police spokesman David Procopio was there too. “We knew it was a little girl right off the bat,” he told The Daily Beast.
“Her body was in the condition that she had not been deceased very long,” he said. “She was probably alive the weekend before that, at least.”
Since then detectives have determined more or less nothing about who this little girl is or how she arrived on Deer Island, dead and wrapped in plastic.
There are no signs of trauma to her body.
The case has not been ruled a homicide. Police are running toxicology tests, and doing anything else they can to provide some indication about how she died. They have not determined her race, although police suspect she is either Caucasian or Hispanic.
But with so much media attention on this child and still no answers, police are beginning to make guesses about the circumstances surrounding this child’s death.
“I think the fact that no one has come forward is suggestive that the family or caretaker or her circle of family or friends are intentionally not providing information—for whatever reason that may be,” says Procopio.
“Some people have suggested that the family could be undocumented immigrants, or that the family is somewhat complicit,” he says.
The girl was probably too young to have gone to school yet.
On the Internet, however, the young girl’s image has taken on a life of its own. A computer generated photo of the girl has been viewed 47 million times.
"It has by far shattered our previous record for Facebook views," Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, told the Associated Press.
Suffolk County DA Daniel Conley’s office is not releasing information about if they believe the girl was left on Deer Island, one of the few sections of the peninsula and home to the Island Waste Water Treatment Plant that’s not monitored by surveillance cameras, or if she washed onto shore.
She isn't the only dead nameless child on Deer Island. In 1847, the island was home to the Deer Island Quarantine Hospital and Almshouse, where Irish immigrants escaping famine on ships judged to be “foul and infected with any malignant or contagious disease” would be quarantined until their ships were cleaned, according to the Boston Irish Reporter. Several hundred immigrants died on the island and are buried in unmarked graves.
The island was then home to an almshouse and then, from 1880-1991, a prison. Mark Wahlberg served 50 days there for assault and attempted robbery when he was 16 years old. It’s where he first started working out.
Despite the millions of people on the lookout for this child, police have not been able to shake down any solid leads. Police have followed up on about 20 tips on girls that match the child’s description. In all of those cases, Propcopio says they have found children “alive and well.”
“Not our little girl,” he says.
They’ve tried to tie the child to other high-profile missing children, like Ayla Reynolds, the 20-month-old who went missing from her father’s Maine home in 2011. Or Caleigh Harrison, the 2-year-old believed to be swept out to sea on Rockport beach in 2012. Or Aliaya Lunsford, the 3-year-old from West Virginia who went missing in 2011.
“We’ve asked people to look around the neighborhood, we’ve asked landlords and neighbors,” says Procopio. While waiting for the toxicology reports, they are being expedited and should come in soon, he says, police have used “old-fashioned shoe leather” and are “pounding the streets.” They’ve called in help from police out of state to follow up on leads.
Pulling together so little information on the body of a dead child is uncommon, says Procopio. Occasionally police will find a dead body they can’t ID, but that is usually more common with homeless people, or someone who is “very old or who is transient,” he says.
Meanwhile, people are sharing the computer-generated image of the child around the world, and the Facebook comments are rolling in.
“I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that no one—a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin—has reported the child missing,” wrote Margie Warren Knight.
“So very sad that someone would hurt a child! Where’s the mother though? Wouldn’t the mom be missing her baby?” wrote Joann Reynolds.
“Who coud [sic] discard a beautiful child like this?” asked Judy Nowak.
“Poor little angel. I hope you are identified soon sweetheart,” wrote Liz Wilkinson. Police are grateful for the help and continue to ask the public for support.
“Anyone who suspects something” should call Massachusetts State Police, says Procopio.
“It could be something as simple as there is someone in the neighborhood that you know and the last time you saw them the little girl is not there,” says Procopio.