Unsolved Cases: 'Baby Bede'

A baby boy found dead on Neville Island in 1999 has never been identified.

Most babies are brought into the world wanted, cared for and loved.

But there are some babies who aren't that lucky.

On April 11, 1999, some buzzards circling near the river's edge caught the attention of two employees doing a security check on the 3-11 p.m. shift at Pittsburgh Gear Co., a manufacturing company  on Neville Island.

As they walked down a rutted path toward the banks of the Ohio River, they saw what drew the buzzards' attention—the lifeless body of a baby boy caught in the rocks and twigs in very shallow water off to the side of an old boat ramp. Part of his umbilical cord was still attached.

According to an April 12, 1999 story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the men called police. Law enforcement officials said at the time they believed the infant, who weighed just seven pounds, was thrown into the river upstream and floated to where he was found.

Because low water temperature might have preserved the body, investigators were unsure of when the baby might have been born. In fact, they were unsure of whether he was Caucasian, as he appeared to be, because often race can't be determined in newborns.

The Allegheny County Coroner's Office found no signs of birth defects and no evidence of trauma. Even his cause of death was never determined, though it is possible he died of exposure.

A Neville Township police officer at the time said that it wasn't uncommon to find bodies on the banks of the largely-industrial island in the Ohio River.

In fact, 95 years earlier, on April 4, 1904, the body of a baby was found in the back channel of the Ohio along Neville Island. The story in the Pittsburgh Press that day questioned whether a rash of infant deaths in the city might have been the result ofbaby farming, a term used to describe day care by unwed mothers and others who needed to work as well as sale of infants for profit.

They say there's nothing like a mother's love. And while the baby boy might never have known that love in life, he was surrounded by love in his death.

After hearing the story of the unidentified infant, the Rev. Edward M. Bryce of St. Bede's Roman Catholic Church in Point Breeze, offered to bury the boy if no one came forward to claim him or take care of the arrangements. When no one did, Bryce named the boy for his parish's patron saint, "The Venerable Bede," patron saint of history, scholars and historians.

About a month after his body was discovered, about 100 people gathered for Baby Bede's funeral, which started with a service at St Bede's and ended at a small, narrow grave in the children's plot at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in the Greenfield and Hazelwood neighborhoods of Pittsburgh.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office at 412-350-4800.

For more information about this and other missing and unidentified person cases, visit Pennsylvania Missing Persons,NamUs or the Doe Network.


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