From time to time Project Cold Case will showcase a guest blogger. Sometimes the blogger will feature a cold case to spotlight, sometimes they will provide insight into investigation techniques and sometimes grief recovery approaches. As opportunities present themselves we will provide our readers any and all information we feel is helpful.
This week we introduce you to Kathy Marks, a retired child abuse investigator who regularly writes for Law and Order magazine. Kathy also maintains a cold case blog, youcansolvethiscoldcase.com, where she focuses on unsolved homicides and sometimes missing or abducted children.
Cold Case Spotlight – Baby Christian
Although West Virginia is one of several states with SAFE Haven laws, which allow parents to drop off their unwanted baby at a hospital or health facility within 30 days of the child’s birth, the mother of the child who has been christened “Baby Christian” by police did not take advantage of that resource.
The newborn baby, estimated between 8 and 9 pounds, was found by a Harpers Ferry National Historical Park ranger at 2:48 p.m. March 21, 2004. The autopsy report showed that he was alive when put inside a garbage bag with three 5-pound weights on the bank of the Shenandoah River near the U.S. 340 bridge in Harpers Ferry, WV.
We don’t know who was responsible for putting Baby Christian in a garbage bag, weighted down with fifteen pounds more than his own weight. Maybe an angry father who wanted no more children was responsible, maybe a mother with mental health issues or who feared the child’s father if he had to be responsible for another child. Regardless of the reason this person committed such a terrible act, they need to be brought to justice because who is to say they would not do the same thing again under similar circumstances and Baby Christian deserves the acknowledgement that he did not deserve to be left in a garbage bag, unwanted and unloved.
The autopsy report found that Baby Christian had been born alive and died from injuries sustained in the fall. The child’s body was believed to have been lying along the river bank for one to three months before it was found.
Baby Christian is estimated to have been born between December 2003 and February 2004. Remember that he was a large child, 8-9 pounds, and it is likely that the mother would have been noticed by someone to have been pregnant.
Baby Christian was wrapped in a pink sheet, then a white sheet, placed into a plastic trash bag which was tied closed and placed inside another trash bag, tied shut and tossed off the bridge landing about 20 feet away from the water’s edge.
The Harpers Ferry National Historical Park ranger thought the bag, which was found on the Harpers Ferry side of the river, probably contained garbage. He opened it, believing it too heavy for simple garbage and the shocked ranger found the baby with the umbilical cord still attached.
Many leads were received from the public and DNA was obtained, although no matches have been found so far. Someone must have noticed that their friend, their family member, an acquaintance from school or church or work, was pregnant and then suddenly no longer had a baby bump. Maybe the mother told people a story about a stillbirth or adoption, but thinking back, maybe that story did not ring true to someone.
Baby Christian was buried on April 3, 2004, with services held by the community and police. Eackles-Spencer Funeral Home donated its services. He was laid to rest at Edge Hill Cemetery in Charles Town, which donated a burial plot for the child.
Anyone with any information about the case or who previously contacted investigators about the case is asked to contact Detective Tracy Harrison with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department at 304-728-3205.
Thank you for taking the time to read about Baby Christian. I hope that someone out there will take the time to make that critical call.
If you have a loved one that is the victim of an unsolved homicide please submit their case here for consideration in a future Cold Case Spotlight post.