Sunday, October 14, 2007

Illinois: Unidentified boy to be buried

Dupage Sheriff's Office composite of a boy believed to be 3 to 5 years old, found in a blue canvas laundry bag in a field near Naperville in October 2005. (Image courtesy Dupage Sheriff's Office / December 7, 2005)

Mary Schmich
October 12, 2007
Chicago Tribune

The detectives and the coroner will gather in the baby section of a Wheaton cemetery Monday to bury their nameless son.He was 3. Or 4. Hispanic. Or Native American. Maybe Asian. By the time he was found, his body was too far gone to determine the color of his eyes, though it is known that his hair was black and the last shirt he wore was navy blue.Whoever he was, he grew to be known in the DuPage County sheriff's office as "our little boy."
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Dupage Sheriff's Office composite Photo
Dupage Sheriff's Office image Photo
Dupage Sheriff's Office sketch Photo
"We adopted him," said Detective Joe Del Giudice when I dropped by Thursday. "He has nobody else."Del Giudice dug his hands deeper into his parka, shook his head. "Not having a name. That's what bothers me."The boy's face -- his various possible faces -- lives on inside the sheriff's department. Two of his faces greet you on the lobby doors. Walk the corridors, and you'll see him in office after office, tacked to a corkboard, hanging on a file cabinet, in a frame on the sheriff's window ledge. The face reminds the officers of their own kids.For two years, since the October day that a dog walker stumbled upon a decomposed body stuffed in a blue, canvas laundry bag and dumped in a roadside thicket near Warrenville, the boy's remains have sat in cold storage, waiting for someone to come forward with a lead that didn't fizzle.There have been hundreds of leads. They came by phone and e-mail. They came after the boy's photo aired on "America's Most Wanted" and "Without a Trace."Del Giudice and his partner, John Gradus, sniffed out possibilities from Chicago to the Wisconsin border. They learned a lot of boys look like theirs.They kept searching. They got angry. They searched more. They felt sad. They waited, in frustration and astonishment. Didn't someone miss him?"I remember thinking in the nice days of October 2005, it won't be long," said Pete Siekmann, the coroner, who keeps a picture of the boy on his credenza. "Some stay-at-home mom or grandma would say, 'You know, I haven't seen little Johnny down the street in a while.'"Some people did get in touch, but it was never the right little Johnny.At one point, Del Giudice flew down with the boy's skull to the faces lab at Louisiana State University. The experts there constructed a clay face and a picture from the clay.But no one stepped forward to claim the boy with that face, or the one with the forensic artist's face, or the one with the computer-generated face.Finally, the sheriff, the detectives and the coroner agreed that it was time. Take their boy out of the refrigerated morgue and lay him properly in the ground."From an evidence and scientific standpoint, there's no reason to delay anymore," said Major Mark Edwalds, who keeps the boy's image on his desk.On Monday, they'll do what families do. While a bagpiper plays a tune and a girl sings "Lullaby and goodnight," and Deacon Andy, who ministers over in the jail, says a word, they'll lay their boy to rest.He'll be laid out in donated clothes -- little slacks, shirt, tie, jacket, underwear -- next to a burial blanket someone offered as a gift. The casket is a gift, too, and the plot.So is the headstone, which will carry no date of birth or death, just the date the body was found, and these words: Son/Unknown/But not forgotten.In 31 years on the coroner's job, said Siekmann, he has encountered only four unidentified bodies, and none that feels this personal."You can hardly believe that it's come down to this," he said, "that a life comes down to this."Burials are rituals the living conduct for themselves as well as for the dead. But when the officers and the coroner lay their boy to rest, they won't get full peace of mind.They say this will never be a cold case, and they fantasize that on Monday out there in the Holy Innocents section of Assumption Cemetery someone will walk up and tell them who it is they're burying.There's a beautiful video about this boy at
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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
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