Cedar County in Iowa

Map of where baby found

Baby Jane Lincoln


Baby Jane (Doe) Lincoln
Case # 96-11840
Lisbon, Iowa (Linn County)
Body Found 1 mile North in Cedar County (Investigating Agency)
November 10, 1996

UPDATE: January 27, 2024


The Iowa Department of Public Safety announced on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, that recent advances in DNA testing have identified the parents of Baby Jane as Luke Dean Wilson, 43, and Samantha Light Hope, also 43 years old.

The circumstances surrounding Baby Jane Doe Lincoln’s death remain under investigation and the public is encouraged to contact the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office should they possess any information that may assist in the investigation.

Additionally, the public is encouraged to contact the Iowa DCI Missing Person Information Clearinghouse at 515-725-6036 if they have any information related to any missing person or unidentified human remains investigation.

No further information is being released at this time, according to the press release by Special Agent in Charge Joe Lestina.

Case summary compiled by Jody Ewing

On Sunday morning, November 10, 1996, the body of a newborn infant was found inside a garbage bag placed in an old horse barn one mile east of Lisbon, Iowa, in Cedar County. Clair Wilson — a retired Quaker Oats employee — discovered the bag on the floor near a horse stall while moving lumber into the 40-by-75-foot barn around 10 a.m. Sunday.

Lisbon barn where baby foundCourtesy photo Katrina Kump, Cedar Rapids Gazette intern
Cedar County Sheriff Keith Whitlatch checks the area near a barn where a dead infant was left Sunday morning, Nov. 10, 1996. Clair Wilson found the baby girl’s body mid-morning.

The white barn faced the farmhouse where Wilson lived with his son and daughter-in-law, Tim and Debbie Wilson, and their 15-year-old son, Luke.

Wilson, not believing what he found, brought the bag to the house’s patio. The infant’s body lay inside a smaller white plastic shopping bag — its handles tied — that had then been placed in a black plastic open garbage sack. The red printed letters on the white bag’s exterior said “Thanks for Shopping here,” with the “T” and “S” in uppercase letters.

No movement or sound came from the bag, which Wilson estimated weighed about 8 or 9 pounds.

The Wilsons did not touch the baby or take her out of the bag, but said it was obvious the infant was dead.

“Christ … I knew this wasn’t garbage.”

Tim Wilson

“It just didn’t seem right in there, because there’s never a garbage bag in the barn. I just grabbed that bag and ripped it open,” Wilson told the Cedar Rapids Gazette in an interview published the following day. “The first thing I saw was feet and hands and … Christ … I knew this wasn’t garbage.”

The Caucasian newborn — whose umbilical cord was still attached to the placenta — had distinct facial features and pale skin, and her eyes were closed. She weighed only 4 pounds but was considered full-term.

Despite freezing temperatures, the body wasn’t frozen, which led the Wilsons to believe the baby had been in the barn only a short time.

State Medical Examiner Thomas Bennett said the baby girl was alive at birth and lived a few minutes, but likely died of exposure. No other cause of death could be determined.

Using body temperature, detectives estimated the baby could have been placed in the barn as late as 6 a.m. the morning Wilson found her. The family kept machinery inside the barn, along with several cats.

Someone Familiar with Highway 30

The night before, Luke Wilson had been the last to go to bed shortly after midnight.

Flowers near entrance to Lisbon barnCourtesy photo L.W. Ward
A spray of artificial flowers lies in the snow near the entrance to the barn where Baby Jane Lincoln was found Nov. 10 on the Clair and Tim Wilson farm along Highway 30 about one mile east of Lisbon.

Tim Wilson said the family’s black Labrador began barking a few hours later.

“He was barking his head off between 2:30 and 3, but we came to the conclusion that was probably our paper being delivered,” Tim Wilson told the Gazette.

Cedar County Sheriff Keith Whitlatch dubbed the girl “Baby Jane Lincoln” after the Lincoln Highway, the historic name for US Highway 30 near the barn where she was found.

Whitlatch said many stores used the “Thanks for Shopping here” bag, but believed the girl’s parents were from Cedar County or a nearby area. “Someone familiar with Highway 30,” he said.

The sheriff asked people to think about those they knew who’d been pregnant and then suddenly weren’t pregnant around November 10. Hospitals across the state also were asked to report on any unexplained admissions.

Second Baby Found in Three Months

Just three months earlier, Whitlatch had investigated a similar case where a newborn girl was discovered in a toilet at the Brea Z Lake Campground southeast of Tipton. The baby’s mother — just 12 years old — was not charged. That infant, too, had been alive at birth but died of exposure.

Baby Jane Doe Lincoln's gravesiteCedar Rapids Gazette photo by Buzz Orr
Flowers cover the grave site of Baby Jane Lincoln at the New Horizon Cemetery near Tipton.

“Here’s another baby that’s never going to cry,” Whitlatch told the Gazette about the Lisbon infant.

Whitlatch also organized a funeral service for the baby girl.

The Fry Funeral Home in Tipton handled the arrangements for the November 14 service. Owners David and Janet Fry donated a portion of the costs, and the Rev. Frank Heubner of Cedar Street Baptist Church volunteered to conduct the rites.

That Thursday, about two dozen people gathered at the New Horizon Cemetery in a rarely used, county-owned burial plot north of Tipton.

Baby Jane Lincoln headstoneCourtesy photo Dawn Albrecht, findagrave.com
Baby Jane Lincoln is buried in the County Home Cemetery in Cedar County, Iowa. Her identity remains unknown.

A once-white picket fence surrounded the strangers as they shivered in the cold and laid Baby Jane Lincoln to rest.

Officers quietly checked license plates of vehicles at the cemetery, though none produced any new leads.

Heubner’s well-worn Bible pages fluttered in the wind as he read from Mark 10:13-16: “Suffer the little children to come to me…”

Information Needed

When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Baby Jane Doe Lincoln’s murder was one of approximately 150 cases listed on the Cold Case Unit’s new website as those the DCI hoped to solve using the latest advancements in DNA technology.

Although federal grant funding for the DCI Cold Case Unit was exhausted in December 2011, the DCI continues to assign agents to investigate cold cases as new leads develop or as technological advances allow for additional forensic testing of original evidence.

The DCI remains committed to resolving Iowa’s cold cases and will continue to work diligently with local law enforcement partners to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice for the victims and their families.

If you have any information you think might help solve this crime, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, email dciinfo@dps.state.ia.us, or contact the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office at (563) 886-2121.

  • Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, former Cold Case Unit, November 24, 2009
  • Cedar County Sheriff’s Office
  • Baby Jane Doe Lincoln — Find a Grave Memorial
  • Iowa cold case: DNA used to identify parents of newborn girl found dead in a garbage bag in 1996,” KCCI.com, January 27, 2024
  • PARENTS IDENTIFIED FROM 1996 NEWBORN DEATH INVESTIGATION,” Iowa Department of Public Safety Press Release, Saturday, January 27, 2024
  • “Top 10 stories of 1996: Gazette readers and staffers differ on E. Iowa’s big events,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 29, 1996
  • “Major cases for tiny staff: Murders of 2 infants, search for Marion couple top busy year for Cedar County sheriff,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 29, 1996
  • “Baby remembered: Still few clues in case of dead newborn found near Lisbon,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 28, 1996
  • “Goodbye, Baby Jane: Newborn found in Cedar County barn laid to rest in rural Tipton cemetery,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 15, 1996
  • “Donations are sought to help baby’s burial, tombstone expenses,” Mount Vernon/Lisbon Sun, November 14, 1996
  • “Baby given name; death still mystery – Residents plan funeral for Baby Jane Lincoln,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 12, 1996
  • “Body of newborn baby found in barn,” The (Spencer) Daily Reporter, November 12, 1996
  • “Dead baby found near Lisbon: Family shaken by discovery of body in barn,” by Cindy Hadish, Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 11, 1996
Copyright © 2024 Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

7 Responses to Baby Jane Lincoln

  1. Kim says:

    The parents of the baby have been identified through DNA testing, according to the Iowa DPS website:

  2. Scot says:

    Any chance an exhumation could be conducted to collect some DNA from this young child?

    • Scot says:

      Based on what we know as of today (Sat Jan 27), law enforcement in Oct 1996 has the fore thought to collect DNA.

      What’s sad is that I know the father.

  3. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    What a heartbreaking story. Why not tell someone so that the baby could have been raised by someone who loved her.

  4. Theresa says:

    I think an underage who didn’t know she was pregnant until labor pains set in and then she realized she was. She decided she needed to run away and threw a few items in the paper bag then realized it could get wet and put the paper bag in a plastic bag. She probably didn’t reach a friend’s house she thought she could trust due to her water breaking, and went to the closest shelter available.

    • Mo says:

      You would have to know these two in order to understand that this was a very intentional act and they should both be in jail for murder.

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