Goodhue County, Minn.
Infant's body likely in river for months
Sheriff widens investigation; couple will provide for burial
BY JOHN BREWER and RHODA FUKUSHIMA
Article Last Updated: 03/27/2007 11:33:03 PM CDT
The body of a newborn girl likely drifted in the Mississippi River for months before she was found Monday near the Treasure Island Resort Casino marina, according to the Goodhue County sheriff's office.
An initial autopsy report did not reveal the cause of the girl's death.
Scott McNurlin, chief deputy for the county, said the girl had been in the water since late fall or early winter. Injuries to the body, including broken bones, likely happened in the river.
"It changes the whole focus of the investigation," McNurlin said. Initially, investigators were looking for leads from within the past few weeks related to the dumping of the body. Now, they will expand that timeframe.
The discovery Monday marks the third time in eight years that a newborn's body has turned up on the banks of the Mississippi in Goodhue County.
In 1999, a boater found a newborn girl near a marina in Red Wing. And in 2003, a newborn boy was found near Frontenac.
NNeither child was ever identified, nor was a cause of death determined. The sheriff's office is forming a task force to review the incidents. The group will include agencies from Wisconsin, Dakota County, the city of Red Wing, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the FBI.
McNurlin said finding three bodies in the same stretch of river - albeit over an eight-year span - is "certainly an anomaly."
"It's a stretch of 15 miles, and we have three of these incidents. It's just unbelievable," McNurlin said.
Investigators don't know whether the three incidents are related. Any DNA tests would require a sample from a parent for comparison.
No parents have been identified in any of the cases.
McNurlin added that it was strange that the latest baby appeared to have been born healthy yet wasn't turned over to a hospital or government agency for care.
"That's the difficulty for the community and ourselves here. It appears to be a full-term baby," he said.
Safe Place For Newborns / Laure Krupp, executive director of Safe Place for Newborns, said the death is an unnecessary tragedy.
Under the Safe Place for Newborns law, enacted in April 2003, a mother or immediate family member of a newborn can place the unharmed child into the hands of a hospital employee on hospital grounds with complete anonymity during the first three days of the child's life.
Minnesota was the third state to adopt such legislation. Now, 47 states have similar laws.
According to Krupp, at least a dozen babies have been turned over to hospitals in Minnesota since the law took effect. Hospitals are not required to report when a child is turned over, and the state does not collect information about children turned in under the law.
Krupp said her group has compiled numbers by polling hospitals, and it gets the word out about the law by informing health care providers, schools and social service agencies.
"We wanted one more alternative to a mother placing her child in a river or a trash can," Krupp said. "Sadly, there are times people know of resources but choose not to use them."
Laying Baby Doe To Rest / Jeanne Madtson wishes the mother of the latest baby had taken advantage of the law. The Red Wing woman and her husband, Don, have stepped forward to provide burial for the abandoned girl - just as they did with the other two babies found in the river.
Pending approval of authorities, the Madtsons hope to lay the baby to rest in their family plot at Oakwood Cemetery. They buried their stillborn daughter, Ann Marie, there in 1989.
"One baby is bad enough," Jeanne Madtson said. "Then, you get two. And now three. This is just unreal. It's heartbreaking."
Madtson said she worries about the precedent.
"It's like people know 'if we drop them (babies) in the river at Red Wing, someone will take care of them,' " she said. "That's not what I want. I don't want to keep burying dead babies."
In the past, the couple received donations of money and services that helped defray burial costs, which came to about $1,200 to $1,500 in 2004, Don Madtson said. They donated the remaining proceeds to the Goodhue County sheriff's office.
"It didn't even cross my mind that this could happen again," Jeanne Madtson said.
John Brewer can be reached at 651-228-2093 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Goodhue County sheriff's office will hold a news conference on the cases at 11 a.m. today at the county law enforcement center, 430 W. Sixth St., Red Wing.
Anyone with information about any of the cases can call the sheriff's office at 651-385-3155.
"We wanted one more alternative to a mother placing her child in a river or a trash can. Sadly, there are times people know of resources but choose not to use them."
Laure Krupp, executive director, Safe Place for Newborns