On March 25, 1993, Cheryl Jenkins and Wendy Sweeney were delivering newspapers when they found what they thought was a doll on the side of a dirt road in the woods near Thompson Township, Ohio. But when they looked more closely, they realised it was the body of a newborn baby.
The little boy, who still had his umbilical cord attached, had been wrapped in a garbage bag. Wild animals appeared to have found him before people did.
A coroner would later find that the baby had been born alive. Whether he was alive or dead when he was dumped was unknown.
“I always think about him,” Jenkins told Cleveland19News last week. “I’ve never forgotten that day. I mean, it’s burned in my memory.”
Tom Dewey was the first police officer to arrive. The sight of the tiny body tore at his heart. For the rest of his career, he never gave up hope of solving the case.
Twenty-six years later, he still gets teary talking about the “horror scene”.
“I saw the damage that was done to that child by the animals and I could see its rib cages and that and I knew right away this was a human being,” Dewey told News5Cleveland.
The small community of Thompson Township grieved for the abandoned little boy. They called the boy “Geauga’s Child”, after the county of Geauga, where he was found. They made clothes for him, and donated money to pay for a burial – Dewey was one of the pallbearers – and a tombstone. The tombstone read: “Geauga’s Child lies here now in safety, loved by many — just too late.”
Dewey and other officers followed every lead they could, even placing a hidden camera at the gravesite. But no one was ever charged.
The community never forgot the little boy. In 2003, 10 years after his body was discovered, they held a memorial service at the gravesite.
Terry Thomas was one of the locals who turned up to the service and shed a tear, telling The News-Herald, “Someone has to come and remember this baby boy.”
Dewey was also there, adding a baseball mitt and a ball to the flowers already placed near the tombstone.
“He would be 10 years old now, probably have a crew cut with a baseball cap,” he said to the mourners. “He would like to play ball and run around with his siblings. That’s what should have happened for Geauga’s Child.
“Until I take my last breath of air, I’ll look at Geauga’s Child as if he is my own.”
Dewey kept visiting the gravesite and following leads. But he retired from the force without ever having found who abandoned the baby boy.
Last year, with more and more cold cases in the US being solved using familial DNA techniques, investigators decided to try a new approach. A DNA sample was taken from the little boy’s blood and tissue, which had been stored all these years.