Unsolved Cases: 'Baby Bede'
A newborn found dead on Neville Island in 1999 has never been identified.
Most babies are brought into this world wanted, cared for and loved.
But there are some who aren't that lucky.
On April 11, 1999, some buzzards circling near the Ohio River's edge caught the attention of two employees doing a security check on the 3-11 p.m. shift at Pittsburgh Gear Co., a manufacturing business on Neville Island.
As they walked down a rutted path toward the banks of the river, the men saw what drew the buzzards' attention—the lifeless body of a baby boy caught in rocks and twigs in very shallow water off to the side of an old boat ramp. Part of his umbilical cord was still attached.
According to an April 12, 1999, story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the men called police. Law enforcement officials said that they believed that the infant, who weighed just 7 pounds, was thrown into the river upstream and floated to where he was found.
Because low water temperature might have preserved the body, investigators were unsure of when the baby might have been born. In fact, they were unsure if he was Caucasian—as he appeared to be—because, often, race can't be determined in newborns.
The Allegheny County Coroner's Office found no signs of birth defects and no evidence of trauma. Even the baby's cause of death was never determined; though, it is possible that he died of exposure.
A Neville Township police officer said that it wasn't uncommon to find bodies on the banks of the largely industrial island in the Ohio River.
In fact, 95 years earlier, on April 4, 1904, the body of a baby was found in the back channel of the Ohio along Neville Island. A story in the Pittsburgh Press then questioned whether or not a rash of infant deaths in the city might have been the result of baby farming, a term used to describe day care by unwed mothers and others who needed to work as well as the sale of infants for profit.
There's nothing like a mother's love. And while this baby boy might never have known that love in life, he was surrounded by love in his death.
After hearing the story of the unidentified infant, the Rev. Edward M. Bryce, of St. Bede Parish in Point Breeze, offered to bury the boy if no one came forward to claim him or handle funeral arrangements. When no one did, Bryce named the boy for his parish's patron saint, "The Venerable Bede," patron saint of history, scholars and historians.
About a month after his body was discovered, about 100 people gathered for Baby Bede's funeral, which started with a service at St. Bede's and ended at a small, narrow grave in the children's plot at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in the Greenfield and Hazelwood neighborhoods of Pittsburgh.
Anyone with information regarding Baby Bede's case is asked to call the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office at 412-350-4800.
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