While Baby Angel has been put to rest, the investigation surrounding her death has not. The story of the newborn baby girl found floating in the Mississippi River on September 5, 2011, was one of profound sadness, and — until now — a mystery. Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand said Tuesday that after more than two years, information was gathered last week that has brought the investigation back into the foreground.
Investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are expected to visit Winona in the coming days to assist Winona County investigators as they work on the new leads, and Brand said he held out hope that the mystery surrounding her death would finally come to a close.
Angel was found floating in the main channel six miles south of Winona by a family. A teenager enjoying the cruise had his parents turn the boat around so he could fish what he thought was litter from the river. The family, instead, found the seven-pound newborn baby, wrapped in a tee-shirt and garbage bag, inside a canvas bag. Tucked into the bags with the baby were four porcelain angels, a bracelet decorated with seeing eyes, and the canvas tote had the Mexican resort city "Manzanillo" scrawled in glittery gold across its front.
Law enforcement officials said Angel was a full-term baby, and was not believed to have been in the water long. The family who found her reported that the bag had just begun to sink when they pulled it from the river; others on the water that day reported seeing a 30- to 40-year-old woman anchored near the area in a boat that resembled a white Sea Ray with a cabin. Angel was believed to have been delivered without medical assistance. Police noted her umbilical cord was still attached and not cropped by any hospital cap.
DNA profiles have been constructed for Angel's parents, and Brand said that over the course of the two-year investigation, DNA samples from women have been taken, but a match has not been found.
Lindsey Thomas, Forensic Pathologist at Regina Medical Center, Hastings, Minn., concluded her examination of the infant's body the month following her discovery, and said she was unable to determine a cause of death. That doesn't mean, explained BCA Special Agent Drew Evans, that officials won't be able to figure out how the newborn died.
In the weeks following the discovery of her body, investigators found the origin of one of the ceramic angels found with her, determining it had been crafted for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Belleville, Ill., sold through a catalogue in 2000. A search warrant was filed to get a list of people or businesses who were sold the figurines, but Evans said the list was voluminous, including records not specific to the porcelain angel.
Baby Angel is one of four infants found in the Mississippi River in recent years, with three others discovered upstream in Goodhue County between 1999 and 2007. DNA linked two of the other babies as siblings; BCA officials have declined to comment on whether Baby Angel's DNA links her to the other unsolved infant death cases.
"I'm just praying that we find out," said Brand of the search for Baby Angel's parents. Officials throughout the long investigation have stressed that they would like to identify the mother in order to get proper mental health treatment for her.
Information can be relayed to police anonymously. Anyone who believes they may know something about the Baby Angel may call Winona Area Crime Stoppers at 507-457-6530, or visit www.winonaareacrimestoppers.com to give information online.