State News

Cumberland deputies hold graveside service for slain infant

Posted December 21, 2009 4:02 a.m. EST
Updated December 21, 2009 6:30 p.m. EST

— More than 10 years after an infant's body was found along the side of a road, Cumberland County investigators are still trying to determine who he was and how he died.

Officers with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office laid a wreath Monday at the grave of "Baby Michael," next to Hair's Chapel Freewill Holiness Church in Linden, hoping the service would stir people's memories about the case.

The 1-day-old baby died of blunt force trauma in March 1999, and his body was put into a bag and tossed to the side of Canady Pond Road in Gray's Creek, authorities said.

“When this happened, it just kind of put a heavy burden on all of us,” Sheriff Earl “Moose” Butler said.

"It wasn't ever given a chance, and that's the sad part about it," Capt. Mike Casey said, noting that the boy would be a year older than his 9-year-old adopted son.

"The child was tossed just like it was a bag of garbage, just lying on the side of the road," said Casey, who initially was the lead investigator on the case. "Every day that I go by there, it’s a reminder of the senseless act that it was."

A faded cross, weather-worn stuffed animals, a wreath and a stocking mark the site where the baby's body was found, but investigators still haven't located his mother. Baby Michael was born to a white woman who was expecting between February and March 1999.

Detectives have ruled out more than 50 women, most through DNA testing. Casey said the latest lead came eight months ago, but it didn't pan out.

"With a county as big as this, it's an overwhelming task," he said.

Detectives said they will not close the case until its solved. Lt. Charlie Disponzio, now the lead investigator on the case, said they are working with a professor in South Carolina to create an age-enhanced image of Baby Michael to see what he would have looked like at age 10.

Baby Michael lies a few feet from Baby Christopher, whose body was found at a recycling plant on Christmas Eve in 2003. Detectives have never found his mother either, but they said they believe he was stillborn.

The Rev. Elmer Parker, pastor of Hair's Chapel, prayed for answers to the Baby Michael case during Monday's graveside service.

"(We pray) that whoever this child belonged to, God, that you will move through their heart and come forth and be known," Parker said.

A reward for information is being offered in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.