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Newborn found dead laid to rest

April 04, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HARPERS FERRY, W.VA. - It wasn't so much that the teddy bear was that large, rather it just looked big because the white, marble coffin it flanked was so small.

That sight alone brought tears to the eyes of many of the 150 people who turned out Saturday morning for funeral services for Baby Christian - the unidentified newborn boy found dead under the U.S. 340 bridge March 21.

Services were Saturday at Harpers Ferry Middle School. Henry Christie, chaplain for the Independent Fire Co. in Charles Town, W.Va., officiated. Members of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department were pallbearers.

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"I've never had to deal with anything like this before in my 15 years on the job," said Sgt. Sam Harmon, one of the investigators on the case. "It's been very hard, but necessary."

A father himself, Harmon said that fact alone has made the case very difficult for many of the officers who are handling the investigation and the search for the people responsible.

Jefferson County Sheriff Ed Boober led his officers into the school auditorium Saturday morning, preceded by a bagpiper.

As to the difficulty of the case, Boober said nothing can prepare an officer for this.

"It has to be learned; there's no training," Boober said.

The baby was found on the banks of the Shenandoah River by a Harpers Ferry National Historical Park ranger, deputies said. The umbilical cord still was attached.

Weights had been placed in a bag with the baby's body. Investigators believe someone was trying to throw the bag into the river.

The body was picked up at the state medical examiner's office in Charleston, W.Va., and returned to Eackles-Spencer Funeral Home in Harpers Ferry, which handled the arrangements.

Some who attended brought daffodils freshly plucked from their spring gardens and laid them at the coffin. Others brought money to give to funds that have been set up through the sheriff's department.

"I just wanted to pay my respects," said James Addy, a Harpers Ferry resident who attended Saturday's service. "It's so sad, particularly since it's a baby."

Christie thanked all who came to honor "the little one."

"If you came here looking for answers to this tragedy, I have none," Christie said. "How someone could do this is beyond me."

But Christie added that he hopes young people will be better educated in the future about West Virginia's Safe Haven law which allows people to drop off unwanted newborns at hospitals without fear of retribution.

"Could anyone have chosen the bridge over a hospital if they had known about the Safe Haven law?" Christie asked. "If just one child finds a loving home, then Baby Christian would not have died in vain."

Burial was in Edge Hill Cemetery off Congress Street in Charles Town as a light rain fell.

For the investigators with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, the case still is very much open.

"I'm determined that whoever did this will be brought to justice," said Cpl. Dave Colbert, lead investigator on the case.

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