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Baby's body found under bridge

March 22, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

A newborn baby boy was found dead under the U.S. 340 bridge spanning the Shenandoah River on Sunday afternoon, its body wrapped in sheets and two plastic garbage bags, a Jefferson County Sheriff's Department sergeant said.

The bag with the baby's body in it also contained at least three 5-pound dumbbells, leading investigators to believe someone tried to toss the baby into the river, Sgt. Sam Harmon said.

"We've got a baby in a bag and we need help," Harmon said Sunday night.

The body, to which the umbilical cord still was attached, was found about 2:30 p.m. on the riverbank by a Harpers Ferry National Historical Park ranger who was in the area to respond to a river rescue, Harmon said. Washington County rescue crews were handling the call for the rescue, which turned out to be a false alarm, officials with Washington County Emergency Services said.

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The ranger thought the bag, which was found on the Harpers Ferry side of the river, contained garbage, Harmon said. After realizing the bag was too heavy to contain only garbage, the ranger opened it and found the baby.

The baby was wrapped in a pink sheet, then a white sheet, Harmon said. The bundle was placed in a garbage bag with the weights and tied.

That bag was placed into another plastic garbage bag, which was loosely tied, Harmon said.

Police believe the body was either dropped or tossed from the two-lane bridge, he said.

Harmon said he cannot tell if the baby was injured before it was tossed from the bridge. There were some marks on the body, but Harmon said he could not tell if they were injuries suffered beforehand or if they resulted from the fall.

It is unclear how long the baby had been dead when it was found or when the body was tossed on the riverbank, Harmon said. Investigators hope to obtain information about the time of death through an autopsy.

The baby's body was sent to the state Medical Examiner's office in Charleston, W.Va., for the autopsy and the results should be available by today or Tuesday, Harmon said.

The baby was described as white with dark hair and weighing about 8 or 9 pounds.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the sheriff's department at 304-728-3205 during the day. After business hours, investigators can be reached at 304-725-8484, Harmon said.

Police investigated a similar case in 1993 when a baby was placed in a five-gallon bucket found in a trash heap in the Franklintown, W.Va., area, Harmon said.

Franklintown is off U.S. 340 south.

The baby in that case lived and the mother of the child was charged with child abuse causing bodily injury.

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