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Newborn's death haunts Geauga County

At first it looks like any other section of the Maple Grove Cemetery until you read the graves.

In the children’s section each grave has a name, except for one, where “Geauga’s Child” is all that is written.

His story began on March 25, 1993 when two newspaper carriers discovered the body of a newborn boy along Sidley Road in Geauga County. He had been mauled by animals.

What witnesses found most surprising was that no one even seemed to know where he came from.

Sergeant Tom Dewey, now retired from the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office, thought he was seeing a discarded doll.

“The first thing got to me when I looked at it I said ‘Why?’ ‘How?’” he said. “We wanted to know was the child alive? Did it breathe any air? Or was it born dead?”

Those questions were soon answered by the coroner who confirmed the child had lived and then died from exposure.

Over the years deputies have had dozens of leads, but no arrests.

The case lies in the hands of Detective Juanita Vetter, who wonders what really went wrong.

“The umbilical cord was still attached to the baby,” she said. “So it was not long from time of birth to the time the baby was left on Sidley Road.”

The only ones to come forward at the time were concerned members of the community. They paid for the handmade clothes Geauga’s Child wore for his funeral and burial.

Investigators wondered whether his parents were possibly among them, waiting for the right moment to speak up.

Geauga County Sheriff Dan McClelland would like the baby to at least have a name.

“An identity, a history for the child,” he said. “Can we bring it peace? Restore the community, take away the wonder.”

Much has changed over the years, including technology and the law. With a simple swab, detectives can now identify the parent.

“We have DNA from the child,” Sgt. Dewey said. “We can match it up to the mother or the father.”

It is also easier for the mothers of unwanted children to hand over their children to a hospital, police or fire station without question.

Detective Vetter points out women at the time had fewer options, since Ohio’s safe haven law was not yet in effect.

“They were stuck. They were trapped, and there was nowhere to go,” she said.

Investigators still hope the mystery of Geauga’s Baby can be solved and that their next lead may be the one.

“We will continue to work it as the sheriff’s office. It will continue to be worked. The baby deserves that,” Det. Vetter said.

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