Johnson County in Iowa
Johnson County in Iowa
Iowa City in Johnson CountyIowa City in Johnson County

Unidentified Baby John Doe


Unidentified Baby John Doe
White/Caucasian Newborn
Found in Iowa City Landfill
Eye Color: Blue
Hair Color: Brown
ME/C Case Number: 92-09997
NamUs # UP117622
Iowa City, IA
Johnson County
Found: December 21, 1992
Case Summary by Jody Ewing

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 blue-eyed and brown-haired infant — identified by the medical examiner as Baby John Doe — weighed 9 pounds and 3 ounces, and had sustained traumatic injuries.

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.

Baby feetThe 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 newborn 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.

Iowa City Landfill

The Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center takes in approximately 125,000 tons of trash each year. It is about 400 acres in size — around half of which contains buried trash.
(Courtesy photo City of Iowa City)

“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 being 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.

Information Needed

If you have any information regarding this unsolved murder, please contact the Iowa City Police Department at (319) 356-5275 or the Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner at (515) 725-1400.



Copyright © 2024  Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


31 Responses to Unidentified Baby John Doe 1992

  1. LakeLife says:

    Praying that the truth comes to light!

  2. LakeLife says:

    My grandma lived in Coralville & we lived in Hills in 1992 that was the year before my parent divorce.
    Hills is such a small town.
    Scary to think it might have been someone we had known in that town or someone we had known in the town my grandma lives in.
    Why can’t they just do a DNA test?!
    This poor babies life mattered!!

    • AnitaJohnson says:

      DNA Tests with trace on familial DNA costs around 5,000.00-6,000.00 dollars. Contact the local law enforcement agency that dealt with this case and ask them if you or they can start a GoFundMe page to raise the money for the testing fees. As I wish ever one of these cases was solved, not many of them will be unless you and I and everyone else participates in donating money to help this child get justice. Are you up for it?

  3. MikeD says:

    All states have Safe Haven laws now, but none of them did in 1992. Iowa didn’t have its Safe Haven law until 2002 so it wasn’t an option for the mother in this situation, unfortunately.

    • Q says:

      She had other options like giving the baby up for adoption.
      There is NO reason to Murder a baby but I’m sure you were not trying to make excuses for her.
      So sad that a child had to loose his life because of a women’s selfishness!
      I hope she hears his cry’s for the rest of her life!

  4. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Just recently the Cook County Sheriff’s Police identified the mother of two babies born at her residence in 2003. She had placed them in a bag to take to the hospital. Then she dumped them in a garbage can, where they were dead.

    Most states have the Safe Haven laws, but how many of them don’t know about them. They are advertised when these situations occur, but if you don’t hear about them in certain media, then it is not an option.

  5. Janis Dyson says:

    There was a safe Haven Law passed so that if a baby was taken to a hospital, church, etc. and left there the baby wouldn’t be considered abandoned. Why not give the child up for adoption? There is no reason for a baby to die if the parents don’t want the baby. Forget about all your theories about the mother, that is just plain stupid. Run the DNA and see where it leads this to.

  6. Janis Dyson says:

    There was a safe Haven Law passed so that if a baby was taken to a hospital, church, etc. and left there the baby wouldn’t be considered abandoned. Why not give the child up for adoption? There is no reason for a baby to die if the parents don’t want the baby.

  7. MikeD says:

    A possible theory could be that the mother was a University of Iowa student that was hiding her pregnancy and had an easier time doing it because she was from another state. That would probably mean her family didn’t see her since August. She could have given birth, abandoned the baby, and went home for the holidays. I hope they have some DNA. With this theory, the mother would be between the ages of 45 and 50 now. He would be turning 28 this year.

  8. W. Morales says:

    I hope with new DNA advancement one day the evil mother will be brought to justice.

  9. Melanie Wood says:

    THIS MAKES ME SICK AND ANGRY TO NO END! I am unable to to have children and SO MANY TAKE THIS GIFT FOR GRANTED! Especially dumped like Trash! And this was a BIG Baby. 9.3! No one noticed a REALLY PREGNANT WOMAN. THEN NOT. And not putting the pieces together?! I hope this haunts all involved for THE REST OF THEIR LIVES!

  10. Anon says:

    All they had to do was cross reference the addresses with the recent birth records from local hospitals. Law enforcement investigations override HIPAA.

  11. This is sad RIP sweet baby

  12. Diana Wilson says:

    So sad. I agree with Sarah Rushton.

  13. I just cannot for the life of me understand how a woman could go to all the trouble of having her baby and then do this. If she can’t care for it and doesn’t want it, people would stand in line to adopt it.

  14. I remember this…my firstborn son was only 10 days old. My husband and parents tried to shield me from hearing about the baby. :'( so very, very sad….

  15. My son was 10 days old when this happened. I think of this baby every December. I used to pass by the place where he was found nearly every day……

  16. If she didn’t want him and couldn’t take care of him, she should have put him up for adoption. And even if he was stillborn, he didn’t deserve this.

  17. This still makes me sick..poor baby being tossed into the trash like that..I hope the person who did this never finds peace EVER!

Comment Policy

We encourage thoughtful discussion here but ask that comments remain civilized and constructive … i.e. without personal attacks or name-calling. Be respectful of others and remember that victims' family members visit these pages, too. If you'd like to provide us with information regarding a suspect or have other sensitive details to relay, please email us directly. Thank you in advance.

Leave a Reply to LakeLifeCancel reply