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Four days before Christmas in 1992, a worker from a Kalona, Iowa sanitation firm found a naked, newborn baby boy’s body in a pile of trash at the Iowa City Landfill west of Iowa City.
The caucasian infant — identified by the medical examiner as Baby John Doe — weighed 9 pounds and 3 ounces.
The landfill worker discovered the body on a Monday over the noon hour.
Despite below freezing temperatures early in the day, the baby’s body was not frozen. Pathologists told police the weather had been cold and cloudy enough to preserve the infant’s body for a longer period of time.
The baby, police said, could have been picked up on a route used by Iowa City Transfer & Storage Co. or by a private contractor who used a van to collect refuse.
Two other dump trucks used the landfill during the noon hour the day the boy was found. A vehicle from Goodwill Industries of Southeast Iowa had visited the landfill before noon to dump some mattresses, though Iowa City Police Chief R.J. Winkelhake said landfill operators believed the baby arrived after the Goodwill truck had already gone.
Investigators concentrated on the areas where trash had been picked up that Monday, which included sections of southern Iowa City, Coralville apartment complexes and the smaller towns of Lone Tree and Hills. They conducted numerous door-to-door and face-to-face interviews, and also spoke to those with knowledge about commercial dumpsters in Hills and Lone Tree.
In an early January 1993 public briefing, Winkelhake told reporters police were still puzzled about how the baby died and how he ended up in the landfill. Nor did they know who the mother was or where she might be.
“Somebody knows exactly what happened,” Winkelhake said in a Cedar Rapids Gazette article published January 9, 1993. “We don’t know who that is at this point, but I think, for everybody’s sake, we would like to be able to resolve this matter. Everybody gets emotional with a child, and so everybody needs to know what happened out there.”
Winkelhake said the baby might have been born anywhere from five to seven days before he was found. Johnson County Medical Examiner T.T. Bozek had originally estimated a shorter time frame somewhere between a few minutes to 24 hours.
It is unknown if the newborn belonged to a local resident or whether he was dumped by someone just passing through.
Approximately 50 people attended “Baby John Doe’s” funeral. The infant was then laid to rest in Iowa City’s Oakland Cemetery.
If you have any information regarding this unsolved murder, please contact the Iowa City Police Department at 319-356-5275.