Uniontown, PA -- June 8, 2000 -- A baby found dead was probably born alive, and would have survived if given proper attention, said Dr. Phillip Reilly, Fayette County Coroner.
During a press conference, Reilly and state police at Uniontown provided the latest information about the death of the infant, given the name "Baby Mary," whose bundled-up body was found in a stream.
Reilly said an autopsy was conducted on the baby by Dr. Cyril Wecht, the consulting forensic pathologist.
He said it appears the baby was a Caucasian female. He said the baby's estimated developmental age was eight to eight-and-a-half months. "In lay terms, that would be considered near-term," said Reilly.
"With the development of the child that Dr. Wecht was able to evaluate, it was his opinion that this child was probably born alive and of such a state of development as it would have been expected to survive if given proper, adequate attention, which was not rendered," said Reilly.
Due to advanced decomposition of the body, said Reilly, the medical cause of death can't be determined with confidence and medical accuracy.
Police, meanwhile, are continuing their investigation.
"Throughout the course of the investigation on this, we have developed a number of suspects and we have interviewed those suspects, and cleared the majority of them," said state police Sgt. Charles Depp, criminal investigation unit supervisor.
Depp, however, said there are no "strong" suspects, noting police aren't "zoning in" on someone. "We are still looking at people," he said.
Depp said the body was found in the creek in a plastic bag by two fishermen who had made a small dam to catch minnows. He said the baby was at the location at least eight days prior to being found.
"The same fishermen that eventually opened the bag had noticed the bag there eight days before," he said, noting it was seen by them on the Saturday before.
"If anybody has any information of somebody being sick during this time period, having medical problems during this time period, that's the type of information we're looking for and that's the time period we're looking at," said Depp.
Reilly said that, because of the advanced state of decomposition of the body, it's not possible to determine how long the baby was at the site, however.
Depp continued by saying the fishermen were reinforcing their dam on Sunday, and the baby was in the way.
"That was the first time that they had occasion to actually move the bag," he said. "Once they moved it, they noticed the weight and opened (it) up and obviously found the contents."
Depp said the body was found on the middle of the dam. "It had already come over top of the dam and was lying on the rocks on the dry side of the dam," he said.
Upon further questioning from the media, Depp said there were "several" shopping bags around the baby, which he said probably kept the odor from the decomposition of the body from being noticed. He also said there was a backpack and a shirt inside the bags as well. He said there were no receipts in the bags.
Although police are looking for suspects in the teen-aged and young adult age group, Depp said the investigation is "wide open" and police aren't limiting themselves to a certain age group. He said police are looking at individuals who may have been pregnant or missing from work or school.
"As we get those leads, we are individually checking each one," he said. "We're also doing other techniques trying to identify this person."
"We are currently in the process of requesting the public to give us any information they have," said Depp, adding that anyone who knows of any suspects can call confidentially or leave their name and number.
He noted police have received phone calls and also are actively searching for suspects. In addition, hospitals have been checked, but no leads have turned up.
Depp said the stream originates in the mountains within two miles of where the body was found.
"Someone could have walked up in the mountains and dumped her way up in the mountains, it's a possibility," said Depp.
Depp said the most serious charge anyone could face in connection with the incident is criminal homicide. "We are focusing on a criminal homicide."
The least serious charge would be abuse of a corpse, he added, noting unrelated facts may downgrade the case from a criminal charge to abuse of corpse.
"We will not limit our options during this investigation in any way," said Depp. "We will treat it as a criminal homicide..."
Reilly noted Roger Victor, chief field investigator for the coroner's office, has secured donations for a "fitting, appropriate and dignified burial" for the baby.
White Swan Flower Shop has donated flowers; Haky Funeral Homes Inc. has donated its services; Silbaugh Vault & Burial Service has provided a casket/vault; Patriot Monuments has donated a headstone; and the Rev. James F. Bump of All Saints Roman Catholic Church in Masontown has provided his services and a burial plot at St. Agnes Cemetery.
"There have been calls directed to the coroner's office offering assistance in any way by total strangers to this little infant," added Reilly.
Depp, meanwhile, said that police also are concerned about the health and safety of the mother.