FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE – Exhumed baby’s DNA hopes to solve over forty year old homicide

By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor

Long before Safe Haven established baby box drop off locations to allow mothers of newborns to drop off babies safely without questions, a case that still haunts many in Fulton County. It has come back to light in hopes of resolution… 42 years later.
Sixteenth Judicial District Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dwayne Plumee petitioned the court recently to exhume the body of an infant found on the roadside in Fulton County in September of 1980 in hope of gaining DNA evidence in the case.
The death of Baby Jane Doe, was one of the cases that former Fulton County Sheriff Al Roork spoke about during his retirement interview. The deceased white, newborn female was found on the roadside on Highway 9 near the Myatt Creek Bridge with severe head trauma. She was unclothed and lying partially on a white diaper with gravel embedded in her skin and blood on her legs.
In 1980, DNA testing had not yet come in to play, but the severity of the case has been something that more than one former police officer has spoken about and voiced hope that they would one day see solved.
The baby’s tiny body was sent to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory for an autopsy. The autopsy, performed by then Chief Medical Examiner F.A. Malak revealed Baby Jane Doe died from blunt trauma to the head and severe brain damage. She only lived two to three hours after her birth.
After all investigative leads were exhausted in the homicide, the case was placed in an inactive status.
38 years later, in 2018, Arkansas State Police Special Agent Justin Nowlin inquired about having the infant’s DNA tested in hope of locating a biological parent or suspect in the case. Jennifer Beauty, with the Arkansas State Crime Lab DNA section, could not locate the diaper from evidence to extract DNA. Former Fulton County Chief Deputy John Cawvey told Beaty it was not in the evidence at the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and that according to records, would have been transferred with the infant’s body to the crime lab in 1980.
According to Plumee, Familial DNA analysis is the strategy in which biological family members DNA is used to provide investigative leads for identification purposes.
The infant was buried in the Salem City Cemetery. The location of her grave was identified by Fulton County Coroner Steve Barker. Plumee requested the infant’s body be exhumed and transported to the crime lab for the DNA extraction in hopes of identifying the biological mother and or father of the infant.
Plumee also requested the Medical Examiner to provide the report to the court and prosecuting attorney’s office as soon as it is available. Judge Tim Weaver signed the Petition for Exhumation on Sept. 14.
This news agency will provide follow ups on this story as they become available.

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