Minnesota criminal investigators are hoping that new DNA analysis and genetic genealogy will lead to the identification of three infants pulled from the Mississippi river over a period of several years. The three cases are among 56 unidentified person cases in that state.
Baby Girl “Jamie”
It was Nov. 4, 1999, when the body of a 6-pound, full-term baby girl was found by a fisherman in the water approximately 10 yards north of the Mississippi River shore, near 800 Levee Drive, Red Wing, Minnesota.
The Caucasian girl had straight, brown hair, dark eyes, and measured 21 inches.
The girl, named “Jamie” by Minnesota investigators, was found wrapped in a towel with its umbilical cord still attached. The infant was born alive and believed to have been in the water for a week or two.
Jamie’s case was instrumental in Minnesota becoming one of the first states to enact a “safe haven” law. The Safe Place for Newborns law, enacted in 2000, allows a mother, or someone with their permission, to legally leave an unharmed newborn, no more than 7 days old, with an ambulance, hospital or healthcare facility that provides urgent care, without fear of prosecution for abandonment.
Baby Boy “Corey”
Four years later, on Dec. 7, 2003, a 7-pound baby boy with curly, black hair, and dark eyes, was discovered by four teenage girls in Old Frontenac, Minnesota, approximately 10 miles downstream from Red Wing. The infant was found on the edge of Lake Pepin.
The coroner estimated the child, who authorities named “Corey”, was four or five days old when he died. A DNA test showed that Jamie, the first baby discovered, and Corey are genetically related maternally.
Baby Girl “Abby”
Oddly, another four years had passed when on March 26, 2007, a third infant, who has been named “Abby,” was discovered. Her decomposed remains were found by two casino employees in the Buffalo Slough of the Mississippi River at the Treasure Island Marina (Slip 36, Dock C).
The infant was near term or term and had no apparent congenital abnormalities. She weighed 6 lbs. and measured 21 inches.
The girl may have been in the water for either a few weeks or perhaps as early as the previous fall/winter of 2006. The cold temperatures and ice in the river may have affected decomposition and prolonged discovery.
Abby was of Caucasian descent, and may have also been of Hispanic or Native American ancestry. According to law enforcement, the child was not from the Prairie Island Indian community, a Mdewakanton Sioux Indian reservation in Goodhue County, Minnesota. The child is also unrelated to the first two children.
Cause of Death and Burials
No cause of death could be determined for any of the children. Among the unanswered questions is whether the infants were victims of homicide or abandoned.
A generous and compassionate couple from Red Wing paid for the burials of the three children. They lie next to their stillborn daughter.
DNA samples were collected by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for each child when they were discovered. It was the initial DNA profiles that concluded the first two children were related.
Now, with more advanced DNA testing, access to public DNA databases (including GedMatch), and the skills of genetic genealogists, investigators are more optimistic that they will be able to eventually identify the infants and their mothers.
Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office put out a call in August 2020 to raise funds to cover the $5,000 per child cost of having Virginia-based Parabon Nanolabs perform the new genetic DNA analysis and to work with genetic genealogy researchers.
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, investigators with the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office have already received some new leads as a result of the analysis that they are working on. Anyone with information about the cold cases is urged to contact the sheriff’s office at 651-385-3155.
- National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, NamUS provides technology, forensic services, and investigative support to resolve missing person and unidentified remains cases. They created the composite drawings of the three infants based on forensic data. The images are aged to resemble what they would have looked like if they would have lived to be a few months old.
- Safe Place for Newborns law, Minnesota Department of Human Services
- TwinCities.com, Pioneer Press