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‘Baby Jane Doe’ is buried once again

Courtney Astolfi • Apr 11, 2014 at 1:10 PM

Erie County deputies on Thursday reinterred the remains of an infant whose body was found more than 30 years ago in a portable toilet at the Huron River Valley Campground.

The reburial of “Baby Jane Doe” comes about six months after officials exhumed her body in hopes of identifying her motherthrough DNA testing.

Forensic investigators successfully obtained a DNA profile from the girl’s remains, but they found no matches in a national database, Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth said.

Following a hectic Memorial Day weekend in 1982, a sanitation worker began pumping out a portable toilet at the Milan Township campground.    When his hose became clogged, he made a horrific discovery floating in the waste: the body of an infant girl with a torn umbilical cord, Sigsworth said.

An autopsy determined the child was born alive, then subsequently drowned in the tank.

Deputies launched an investigation at the time, poring over visitor logs and interviewing the campers they could track down. They learned a “very pregnant” teenager or young woman was seen wandering the grounds that weekend, but never identified her.

The case turned cold.

As deputies began digitizing old case files in September, they learned the Baby Jane Doe case was a prime candidate for a second review. Today’s DNA technology could’ve provided new details that simply weren’t available in the early 1980s.

After Sigsworth conferred with Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter and coroner Brian Baxter about the case’s particulars, the coroner authorized an exhumation Sept. 25.

The body was sent to the Lucas County coroner’s officer, where investigators removed a small part of the femur and sent it to a crime lab for testing.

They were able to retrieve a full, useable DNA profile, which was cross-checked in a national crime database. A DNA profile for the girl’s mother was not found in the database, although that’s not to say it never will be, Sigsworth said.

The child’s profile is now permanently in the database. If her mother or father is ever required to submit DNA — for felony charges, for example — the system would automatically identify a match and notify officials.

At Baby Jane Doe’s reinterment Thursday morning at the Scott Union Cemetery on Huron Avery Road, a small group of people gathered to lay her to rest.

Sigsworth was joined by Deputy Paul DeFazio, who investigated the case in September, as well as sheriff’s Chaplain John Adams and Wayne Foster, of Foster Funeral Home in Huron. Also at the ceremony was retired Erie County Lt. Stan Barrett and his wife, Renee, and retired Lt. Bart Manley.

Manley was the first responder called to the campground back in 1982.

Deputies are working to obtain a headstone for Baby Jane Doe’s grave, Sigsworth said.

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