The tragic story of an unidentified child’s unexplained death reads like a crime novel from Boston author Dennis Lehane: The identity of a little girl, known only as “Baby Doe,” remains a mystery two weeks after a dog walker found her lifeless body and a zebra print blanket inside a plastic bag on Deer Island.
The computer generated image of the girl can only offer a guess as to what she may have looked like. Authorities estimate that she is a white or Hispanic 4-year-old with brown hair and brown eyes, standing three feet tall and weighing about 30 pounds.
But all other details remain an enigma that has perplexed authorities and the public.
“It’s heartbreaking. It’s a heartbreak felt throughout the country,” Lt. Daniel Richard, spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police told Metro. “I don’t know how a child could be missing this long and no one knows anything about her.”
That question is one that has circulated social media and news media throughout the nation since last month.
“As of [11:20 a.m. Monday], 43,319,296 people have viewed our Facebook post asking for help identifying her,” Richards said. “There have been 44,502 posts about her, mostly prayers and well wishes. We’ve also received scores of private social media messages and phone calls from across the country.”
But still, investigators have no leads.
Despite the rapid and vast responses from coast to coast, information is frighteningly sparse. Authorities released the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s rendition of her portrait at a press conference on Thursday. They also released pictures of the blanket and her polkadotted leggings, all found with her in a plastic industrial sized garbage bag.
Police have conducted well-being checks at homes throughout the Commonwealth over the past several days. All check-ins found the children in question “safe and sound.”
An autopsy proved inconclusive, and though Suffolk County District Attorney called her death “unnatural,” the death is not being treated as a homicide.
The Suffolk District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on whether the bag washed up on shore or had been tied shut.
“Our number one priority is identifying her,” DA Spokesman Jake Wark told Metro. “We won’t be ready to discuss any charges or anything related to a criminal investigation, if there are any, until we determine who she is or the cause of her death.”
Figuring out who she is or how she died is far more difficult than TV shows or movies make it seem.
“Real life isn’t TV,” Wark said. “You can only check fingerprints and DNA in a database system where people have either submitted their prints or have been arrested.”
Before the Fourth of July holiday weekend, investigators had pleaded with people to keep an extra eye out for families who normally have children with them who may be out without one. They are asking the same from landlords, building owners, pediatricians, and any other community caretakers going forward.
Authorities stressed that they will protect the identity of anyone with information on Baby Doe. This includes undocumented immigrants who might be reluctant to come forward.
“In a case this tragic, the authorities want to get to the bottom of the situation, they have no interest in offering someone up for deportation,” Massachusetts Immigration Attorney Matthew Maiona told Metro.
“The Boston Police and local community police departments have made a tremendous effort to let people know that they can report a crime without repercussion. They’re in the business of solving crimes. When a child is found deceased, we’re talking about something so heinous that they won’t care who brings them the information.”
Anyone with information can contact the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children’s 24 hour call center at 1-800-THE-LOST, Suffolk County State Police Detective Unit at 617-727-8817, Massachusetts State Police at 508-820-2121 or the Winthrop Police Department at 617-539-5806.