Shreveport, LA -- April 25, 2002 -- Twenty-nine strangers stood under an overcast violet sky at a Shreveport cemetery Wednesday morning and mourned a baby boy with no name.
Pastor Bill Stowell of Emmanuel Baptist Church spoke of a place where there is no crime, no evil, no wickedness.
"Nothing bad will ever happen to him again. He is safe in the arms of Jesus," Stowell assured the men, women and children who came to pay respects to the child Stowell dubbed "Baby John."
"I've often thought that when a little baby passes away that God says to one of the great angels, 'Baby John is coming home today. Now, you be there to meet him,'" Stowell told the group.
Some wiped tears from the corners of their eyes and others nodded in affirmation as Stowell eulogized the baby tossed away in a black plastic bag and discovered March 26, 1999.
Authorities believe stray dogs tore into the bag that motorists had dodged in the middle of Old Mansfield Road near Keithville earlier that day. Nobody knows when the baby was born, but his umbilical cord was still attached when a dog buried the torso in the yard of a steel fabrication plant. The baby's head was missing, believed to have been removed by dogs.
Who left the baby and why remains a mystery. Former Caddo Chief Deputy Coroner Dr. Steven Cogswell couldn't determine whether the white baby was born alive because of the condition of the remains. Burial was delayed while Cogswell did an extensive investigation. No arrests were ever made.
The brief graveside service at Forest Park Cemetery drew people from Shreveport, Frierson, Keithville and Elysian Fields, Texas. One woman brought a small, glass angel strumming a harp, which was placed in front of the tiny white casket. Cynthia Salley and grandson Cody brought blue silk flowers. The Salleys own Kenneth Salley Enterprises Inc., where the baby was found.
Wayne Nichols, a welder who saw the dog carrying the torso and later saw the baby's hand sticking out of the ground, no longer works at the plant, but he was at the graveside, too.
"It means just as much to me right now as it would have the next day," he said, his eyes watering.
Salley and Nichols will forever have a connection with the unidentified baby, but most of those who attended the service knew of him only through news reports.
"I didn't know how many people were going to show up. I figured somebody needed to be here for the baby," Fred Gary of Shreveport said.
"Baby John" didn't live long enough to have any earthly friends, Stowell said. "It is very, very sweet for you to come out, participate and express sympathy for this little baby. God bless each one of you."
Most of those who attended signed a white book on a lectern by the graveside. "God bless U little one," one woman wrote.
There was no family member to present the book to as a keepsake. Osborn Funeral Home Manager Tim Dulany said he'll keep it in a file he started three years ago.
The baby was buried in a section of the cemetery called Baby Land, where statues of little boys, a duck and a bear dressed in Santa Claus clothes dot the grass. The graves are marked with small, bronze memorials bearing inscriptions.
The baby boy with no name will have a bronze memorial, too, ordered Wednesday by Forest Park Cemetery General Manager Jim Fuller. It will read "Angel in Waiting," taken from the first two lines of the chorus of the Tammy Cochran song Angels in Waiting:
"They were angels in waiting
Waiting for wings."