Buena Vista County in Iowa
Storm Lake, Iowa Storm Lake in Buena Vista County

Baby Boy Doe

Homicide

Baby Doe
Two days old
502 C West 8th Street
Vista Estates Mobile Home Park
Storm Lake, IA
Buena Vista County
Baby’s DOB: October 15, 1995
Body Found: October 17, 1995

Case summary compiled by Jody Ewing

On Tuesday, October 17, 1995, two police officers on foot patrol in Storm Lake, Iowa, entered a boarded-up mobile home and, on the floor inside a dark closet, found the body of a 2-day-old baby boy wrapped in a youth’s sweatshirt.

The officers entered the 502 C West 8th Street trailer on what they thought would be a routine investigation, the (Storm Lake) Pilot Tribune reported Thursday, Oct. 19, 1995.

Storm Lake Police Captain Joe HoyeCourtesy Storm Lake Times
Storm Lake Police Captain Joe Hoye displays a flyer describing the sweatshirt found wrapped around the infant.

A dozen police officers and agents from the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation spent most of Wednesday searching for clues to the baby’s identity and the person or persons responsible for the infant’s death. Police sealed off the home as a possible crime scene as they awaited criminologists from the DCI Crime Lab in Des Moines.

Storm Lake Police Captain Joe Hoye said they were treating the case as a criminal investigation, and that manslaughter or murder charges may be implicated in the child’s death.

Hoye called the incident a difficult case emotionally for officers to handle.

“Police are trained for difficult situations, but I don’t think you could ever prepare anyone to deal with something like this,” he told the Pilot Tribune. “When you are talking about a child dead of neglect, it is very hard for the officers to deal with.”

A preliminary report from an autopsy conducted in Sioux City by the State Medical Examiner’s Office determined the baby was a male and less than two days old. Hoye said the child appeared to be a full-term delivery, but didn’t know whether the baby had been born in a hospital setting or elsewhere.

According to the autopsy report, the baby had been abandoned in the trailer about 24 hours before being discovered Tuesday by police about 7 p.m.

1995-boarded-up-storm-lake-mobile-home-baby-doeCourtesy Storm Lake Pilot Tribune
A mobile home, boarded up several years ago, is the focus of an investigation into the death of a 2-day-old infant found in a closet Tuesday night, Oct. 17, 1995.

Storm Lake officers had stepped up efforts on foot patrol since summer due to increasing crime reports in the Vista Estates mobile home park.

The trailer had been boarded up for months and was situated against an embankment, nearly hidden from view by occupied mobile homes. Officers became suspicious after noticing one of the boards had been removed from the trailer.

Dale Barr, who managed the Vista Estates mobile home park, said the trailer at 502C had been abandoned about two years earlier and that he’d finally boarded it up with wood and nails after the last tenants left it in such bad condition he’d judged it beyond repair. It hadn’t stopped people from illegally entering the trailer.

Officials considered the sweatshirt — believed to be a youth size worn by a teen or small adult — a key piece of evidence in the case. Flyers were passed around town in English, Spanish and Lao with a picture depicting the garment, described as having orange sleeves, a purple shoulder area, a black torso with a purple quilted horizontal band over an orange horizontal band, and a black waistband, cuffs and neckband.

The chest area depicted an emblem stating: “Genuine Original, Varsity, Universal, 586.”

“We’re hoping that anyone who recognizes the sweatshirt will give us a call and help us with the investigation,” Hoye said.

Officials announced a $1,000 reward for any information leading them to the person or persons who’d abandoned the baby.

A week after the baby’s discovery Police Chief Mark Prosser said investigators continued to pursue leads but there had been no breaks in the case.

Full force of Storm Lake police

On Friday, October 27, 1995, the Storm Lake community held a memorial service at Lakeside Presbyterian Church to say goodbye to the infant. Six ministers and many church-goers of different faiths attended the service, along with the St. Mary’s children’s choir and several musicians.

The service opened with the children’s choir singing “Amazing Grace,” who later sang a musical tribute — “Like a Little Child” — to Baby Doe.

The ministers prayed for justice and peace for the person or persons responsible for the baby’s death, and for the “gift of consolation” for the community.

buena-vista-mempark-cemeteryCourtesy photo Curt and Andrea Nelson, findagrave.com
Baby Boy Doe is buried in the Buena Vista Memorial Park Cemetery in Storm Lake.

Police officers distributed memorial booklets titled “Baby Doe, Child of the Storm Lake Community,” and placed a teddy bear displaying the department’s logo next to the single red rose atop the casket to be buried with the child.

Those attending the Friday services wept openly.

“We now entrust this soul to the Lord…that this child may find a home in His Kingdom,” said Father Mike Erpelding, who concelebrated the service with several members of the Storm Lake clergy.

“This child may have died alone, but as one who was chosen by God,” Erpelding said. “This child, like us, experienced an imperfect world.” (Storm Lake Times, Oct. 28, 1995)

When services ended, the tiny casket — scarcely bigger than a bread box — was carried from the church, accompanied by the full force of the Storm Lake police.

The officers also stood by during the infant’s burial at Buena Vista Memorial Park Cemetery.

Nearly six years passed after Baby Doe’s death when another male infant about 24 hours old was found in a shredder at the Harold Rowley Recycling Center. On May 30, 2002, workers found the infant’s remains in the trash chute on the conveyor where recyclables were separated. The infant’s body had been damaged by the shredder, Buena Vista County Sheriff Chuck Eddy said in a Pilot Tribune story dated April 22, 2006.

The second child, dubbed “Child of God,” was ruled out as being African-American, and the sheriff said it was impossible to determine whether the baby was born alive due to the condition of its remains.

The newborn’s body was found outside Storm Lake’s city limits, although the Storm Lake Police Department and Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation assisted the Buena County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation.

To date, both infants’ deaths remain unsolved.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Baby Doe’s unsolved case, please contact the Storm Lake Police Department at (712) 732-8010. If you have any information about “Child of God’s” unsolved case, please contact the Buena Vista County Sheriff’s Office at (712) 749-2530.

Sources:
  • Storm Lake Police Department
  • Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation
  • Buena Vista County Sheriff’s Office
  • Find a Grave Memorial
  • “Still no clues in Child of God, Baby doe cases in Storm Lake,” The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, April 22, 2006
  • Reopening the Baby Doe scars,” Pilot Editorial, The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, Thursday, October 20, 2005
  • Baby Doe’s death remains unsolved,” The Sioux City Journal, Wednesday, October 19, 2005
  • “CASA volunteers represent children’s needs,” The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, Saturday, April 22, 2005
  • “Area Child Abuse Rates vs. State 2000-05,” The Pilot Tribune, April 22, 2005
  • “Lost Baby Cases: Police, sheriff keep cold cases open, long for clues to infant identities,” The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, April 22, 2005
  • A community guide to preventing CHILD ABUSE: Candlelight Vigil: Is enough being done in prevention?” by Dana Larsen, Pilot-Tribune Editor, April 22, 2005
  • “A Prayer for the Children,” The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, Saturday, April 22, 2005
  • ‘Still hope’ to solve tragic baby mysteries,” by Dana Larsen, The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, January 3, 2004
  • “Baby Mysteries: Could two cases be connected?” by Dana Larsen, The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, Saturday, January 3, 2004
  • Storm Lake divided as nation watches: Women are questioned and a debate rages as investigators search for leads on a dead baby,” by Staci Hupp, The Des Moines Register, Aug. 11, 2002
  • “Planned Parenthood battle,” by Dana Larsen, The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, July 6, 2002
  • “Investigators stumped on infant death,” The Storm Lake Times, June 8, 2002
  • “Babies and the prosecution,” Pilot Editorial, The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, Thursday, July 26, 2001
  • “Service for Baby Doe,” The Storm Lake Times, Wednesday, October 16, 1996
  • “‘Baby Doe’ has a local legacy,” The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, Wednesday, November 29, 1995
  • “Letters to the Editor: A caring community,” by Dr. David Crippin, M.D., Storm Lake, The Storm Lake Times, November 22, 1995
  • “City cries for Baby Doe: Community asked for forgiveness,” The Storm Lake Times, October 28, 1995
  • “Storm Lake gathers for Baby Doe funeral,” by Dana Larsen, The Spencer Daily-Tribune, Oct. 28, 1995
  • “‘A Little Child Shall Lead Them…In a unifying memorial service, community adopts abandoned Baby Doe for its own,” by Dana Larsen, The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, Saturday, October 28, 1995
  • “No breaks yet in baby case,” The Storm Lake Times, Wednesday, October 25, 1995
  • “Baby found dead in trailer: 2-day-old abandoned boy wrapped in only a sweatshirt — $1,000 reward offered,” The Storm Lake Times, Saturday, October 21, 1995
  • “News and sanity: With stories like Baby Doe, objectivity hurts,” by Dana Larsen, The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, October 21, 1995
  • “Donors come forward to bury nameless victim with love he was denied in brief life,” The Pilot Tribune, October 20, 1995
  • “Reward offered in baffling Baby Doe case,” The Pilot Tribune, October 20, 1995
  • “Abandoned infant found dead: Police ask community’s help to identify Baby Doe, found in a closet in boarded-up mobile home,” The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, Thursday, October 19, 1995
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20 Responses to Baby Doe

  1. Sandy R says:

    I live and work in the area, and I remember this like it was yesterday. I even wrote a Letter To The Editor to our local newspaper about it..I was so saddened that someone could do this to a helpless newborn!

  2. I worked at the SLPD when this happened. Many hours were spent looking for answers for this baby. I still think about it.

  3. This is so heartbreaking. I hope the parents are found one day.

  4. Diana Wilson says:

    I still say….Who can do such a thing? Poor baby! So sickening!!!!

  5. Storm lakes not that big, but they have had a infiltration of the spanish and asians in the last 20 plus years, in 1986 I seen more of them than whites, not that I’m racist, I’m not, just saying that the chances of this being someone that was there for only a while, and then had this happen, and then had to flee because of what they did? seems funny that in 20 years there’s nothing? so maybe that true that who ever did it left and who knows where they went?

  6. Hope they kept DNA sample from infant to run against possibles

  7. It’s so unfortunate things like this happen when there are those Safe Haven places they can drop a newborn no questions asked!!! (not sure they had those back then but still – someone would have gladly taken this sweet child!!)

  8. Mark Prosser says:

    This remains an active and important investigation at the SLPD. Follow the SLPD Facebook page tomorrow (10/17) the 20th anniversary date for an updated plea for information.

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