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Old 06-27-2003, 09:05 AM   #1
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Now here's an interesting and macabre story!

Mother took the secret of her child to her grave
18 years dead, baby found mummified
Father traced through DNA testing


There was time for a bedside confession. JoAnne Patterson knew the cancer she had fought against for seven years was going to kill her.

In fact, when she died on June 6, 2001, she had already said her goodbyes, made sure her sizable estate was in order and signed the papers that gave her best friends guardianship of her 15-year-old daughter.

It wasn't until more than a week after her death, after the cremation and funeral, when her 18-year-old secret was discovered wrapped in a blanket beside boxes of Christmas decorations. Patterson's friends weren't sure at first what they had found amid her possessions in her condominium locker, thinking maybe they'd stumbled on a little doll.

But as the blankets were unravelled and a newborn's T-shirt and tiny diaper were visible, Patterson's friends knew they had to call police.

Now two years later as the case is finally closed, forensic science and police work tell the stories of a 45-year-old woman who lived a double life, and a day-old child who was preserved in a mummified state following her mysterious death 18 years ago.

The investigation started a hot June day in the autopsy room of the city's coroner's office.

The room was crowded. What drew the phalanx of police officers and scientists into the scrubbed room back in 2001 was the state of the baby's remains. This Baby Jane Doe was curled in a fetal position and mummified, a rare condition that occurs when moisture is removed from tissue, stopping the natural decomposition process.

Mummification normally happens in extremely dry environments a desert or at the high altitude of a mountain and those circled around the stainless-steel table were puzzled by this baby brought in from a fifth-floor locker room of a posh downtown condominium.

"It was definitely something I hadn't seen before," now recalls Ontario's deputy chief coroner, Dr. Jim Cairns, a 20-year veteran of autopsies performed in the country's busiest morgue.

Cairns found few clues when first looking at the infant. The only clear marking on her head was the distinct diamond-shaped fontanel, the area of a baby's cranium most commonly called the soft spot, where tough membranes join the two sections of a skull. All her bones and ribs were intact.

All that Cairns was able to surmise was that due to the baby's size and lack of obvious signs of trauma, the newborn was from a full-term pregnancy and no official cause of death could be determined.

All other conclusions, including the baby's gender gleaned from extracted DNA, came from the Centre of Forensic Sciences.

That DNA profile also led investigators to her mother after they compared her biological thumbprint with Patterson's tissue sample, taken from a St. Michael's Hospital biopsy slide.

According to forensic odontologist Dr. Robert Wood, markings on the baby's teeth undeveloped in her gums showed she was born alive, able to breathe on her own.

As Cairns explains, this testing is not precise, likely not to stand up in court, but coupled with the fact that the baby was dressed in diapers and a T-shirt, he too believes she was born alive.

But she didn't live long.

There was not yet bacteria in the bowels, something that would appear in an infant's first week of life and then contribute to the body's decomposition in death, so she likely lived less than 24 hours.

Science was giving Baby Jane Doe a voice, but still no one knew when she was born or why she died.

Investigators still had no cause of death and did not know when the baby girl was born.

With the case running through his mind, Detective Mike Stoker went home one night and typed "forensic anthropology" into an Internet search, and found Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist and fictional author. In a scene perhaps more reminiscent of Reichs' fictional characters, Stoker managed to reach the author that night on her cellphone in Charlotte, North Carolina, as she shopped at a K-Mart for shower curtain rings.

Reichs was immediately intrigued by the Toronto case but felt an anthropologist more specialized in the field of determining time of death in decomposed bodies would be more helpful.

That's how Stoker found himself talking with Arpad Vass, a forensic anthropologist who works at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville and does research on the famed Body Farm, a field-testing area for those volunteers who have donated their bodies to science.

Vass explained in an interview yesterday that his testing included soaking a section of the baby's T-shirt in distilled, deionised water for 20 minutes. He would then measure the levels of elements such as phosphate, magnesium and sodium against the temperature of the storage locker where the baby was found.

He gave Stoker a three-page report concluding that Baby Jane Doe had mummified in 69 days.

Cairns and Stoker were now two calls away from closing the case.

The first was to Kimberly-Clark headquarters in Dallas, Tex., where employee Mike Frankovich joined the case. After looking at e-mailed pictures of the baby's diapers, he told Stoker that due to the thickness and location of the tabs, the baby's diaper was Huggies, and was able to tell investigators they had been bought in the mid-1980s. Stoker knew his next call was to Manchester, England to a former boyfriend who Patterson dated until 1985. He was mystified, unable to believe the baby could be his, but co-operative; during a visit to Toronto last Christmas he offered police a DNA sample.

Weeks later, back at home, he received a stunning phone call. He was the baby's dad.

Patterson's relatives were stupefied. No one could believe this successful insurance brokerage owner and mother of a teenaged daughter had concealed a pregnancy and then discarded the baby. No one could believe she died with her secret.

While science was unable to tell how Patterson's baby died or why she had not told anyone of her child, Stoker and Cairns' work was done. No charges could be laid. No one else was involved.

Baby Jane Doe was recently taken from the morgue and buried by relatives.

"It's not complete closure, but the resolution we have was the result of great police work and modern science," says Cairns.

"The unanswered questions have gone with her in the grave."
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Old 06-27-2003, 09:32 AM   #2
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Old 06-27-2003, 10:14 AM   #3
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Old 06-27-2003, 05:47 PM   #4
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Wow.
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Old 06-27-2003, 06:25 PM   #5
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oh my god
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Old 06-27-2003, 07:54 PM   #6
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....odd story.
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Old 06-27-2003, 08:20 PM   #7
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damn torontonians.
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Old 06-27-2003, 08:53 PM   #8
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Good grief!!! As the old saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction.
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Old 06-27-2003, 09:40 PM   #9
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it's a strange world we live in.
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Old 06-29-2003, 02:05 AM   #10
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Wow. I predict this case will be featured on one of those Forensic Science shows on the Discovery Channel.
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