Baby suffered fractured skull
For Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand, the case of Baby Angel, an infant whose body was found in the main channel of the Mississippi River six miles south of Winona, has haunted him. After three years and no solid leads to the identity of the baby and the mystery surrounding her death, Brand is left with a melancholy feeling as he winds up his career as sheriff. “I feel sad about this case,” said Brand. “[To solve it] would make a closure in my mind.”
This coming Friday, September 5, will mark the three-year anniversary of the discovery of Baby Angel’s body in the Mississippi River by a family on a Labor Day boat ride. A teenager asked his parents to turn the boat around so he could fish what looked like garbage out of the river. Instead of trash, the family found the lifeless body of an infant swaddled in a green, men’s size large T-shirt that appeared to have the image of a slice of bread printed on the front, within a garbage bag inside of a canvas tote with the Mexican resort city “Manzanillo” written in gold script. Baby Angel was also found with an evil eye bracelet decorated with blue accents, along with four porcelain angels varying in size and make. “To me it represents a religious type of ceremony, or a belief in angels guarding over the baby,” Brand said. Although the person who prepared the package may have had some type of religious beliefs, this provided no relief to Brand.
According to law enforcement officials, Baby Angel was a full-term baby and is believed to have been delivered without medical assistance due to the fact that she was found with her umbilical cord still attached — not cropped by a hospital cap. Brand said that Baby Angel was a white female, and officials were not able to give an exact determination of the cause of death, although she did have a fractured skull. “But we have no idea when that occurred,” Brand commented.
Officials have also said that they did not believe she had been in the water for very long, with the family who found her reporting that the bag had only just begun to sink when they took it from the river. Boaters and witnesses in the area when Baby Angel was recovered from the river reported seeing a 30-to 40-year-old woman anchored nearby in a boat that resembled a white Sea Ray with a cabin. Besides this potential suspect sighting three years ago, law enforcement officials do not have many clues. While DNA profiles have been constructed of Baby Angel’s parents and many DNA samples from women have been taken over the years, there is yet to be a match. “We have a right to know who is responsible for putting Baby Angel into the river,” Brand said of his motivation to keep the case alive. “It’s very sad that someone who doesn’t want to have a child would put the body in the Mississippi River.”
Baby Angel is one of four infants found in the Mississippi River in recent years; the other three were found upstream in Goodhue County between 1999 and 2007. While DNA has linked two of the other babies as siblings, Brand said that Baby Angel is not related to them.
Although Brand retires in January, he said that he will continue to work toward a conclusion to the case for the people who have invested time in the investigation, and most importantly, for Baby Angel herself. “She never got the chance to have a life, and I think that is very sad,” he said.
If you have any information regarding the identity of or mystery surrounding the death of Baby Angel, contact the Winona Area Crime Stoppers at 507-457-6530. Information can be relayed to the police anonymously.