The scene might have emerged from the pages of a novel or folktale: a foundling, wrapped in swaddling clothes, left on a doorstep on a brisk winter afternoon.
Nevertheless, it occurred in Northeast Washington eighteen months ago, not in another location or time. The authorities have characterized the case of Baby Jane Doe, as they have dubbed her, as peculiar due to the absence of any familial or social connection to the child.
Joyce E. Perry distinctly recollects departing from her workplace in the early hours of March 20, 1998, and returning to the rowhouse that she, her sister, and her two sons share in the unit block of Rhode Island Avenue NE.
Perry, 43, was walking with DeAndre, 11, and Donnell, 7, that very morning when the children “began to fuss.”
Perry recalled: “I told my older sibling, ‘You stated you desired a younger brother when I was pregnant,'” ‘Then why are you agitated?’ He responded, “I desired a younger sister.”
Perry was watching television several hours later when her sister insisted she heard the cries of a baby.
“After placing the television on mute and continuing to listen, I once more heard the infant crying,” recalled Dorothy Beal, 38.
The infant was positioned in the confined area between the storm door and the interior door that provides access to the residence. A few minutes after the sisters dialed 911, at 5:00 p.m., police discovered the child wrapped in a white knit blanket with an orange-pink border and a sky blue border. She was attired in a one-piece white sleeper.
The infant, estimated by doctors to be five days old, weighed 5 1/2 pounds and was “crying but consoled,” according to the police report.
St. Anne’s Infant and Maternity Home in Hyattsville was where she was transferred after being evaluated at Children’s Hospital and deemed to be in satisfactory condition, according to Lt. John R. Alter of the youth and preventive services division of the D.C. police department.
However, Jane’s safe delivery marked the beginning of a valiant yet fruitless quest for any connection to her family or her brief past.
According to a 1990 study by the U.S. Department of Justice, 14,500 children were abandoned in the United States in 1988, the most recent year for which data is available. The study discovered that a minority, 51 percent, were four years old or younger.
Alter stated that while 20 to 25 children are reported missing daily in the District, infants or children who have been abandoned on purpose are uncommon. He stated that in such situations, detectives can typically locate a parent or acquaintance shortly thereafter.
According to Julia Cartwright, a spokeswoman for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Baby Jane is one of only two unidentified, abandoned infants in their database. The center profiles six missing, abducted, or abandoned children in Washington, D.C. on its website (www.missingkids.org). Among them is the infant.
“This is an extremely rare incident,” stated Alter, who oversees reports of missing persons and children who have been abused or neglected in the District.
Seven youth division detectives canvassed the neighborhood in search of anyone who might have seen or heard of a woman who had recently given birth in an effort to solve the case.
Additionally, mail carriers and businesspeople were interviewed.
The police contacted hospitals spanning from Annapolis to Richmond, inquiring whether an expectant mother may have prematurely emerged.
Alter stated that due to the presence of placental fluid in the infant’s hair and blood on her blanket, the police do not believe the infant was born in a hospital.
Furthermore, the infant was not left at Perry’s doorstep for any specific reason, according to the police. “Mom probably panicked and dropped it off with someone halfway decent in the block, thinking: Hey, they’ll get them to the right authorities,” Alter explained.
Beal and her sister rummaged through their memories in an attempt to recall who could have abandoned the infant on their stoop. “My sister, myself and the two boys are the only ones here, and we don’t hardly go outside too much, and the neighborhood is pretty quiet,” Beal commented.
The sisters stated that they considered keeping the infant but ultimately decided against it due to their belief that she required medical attention and the necessity for authorities to be able to locate her family.
“We would have loved to have retained her,” laughed Beal. “She was stunning. Stunningly beautiful.”
The D.C. Child and Family Services Agency has reportedly placed the infant in preadoptive foster care, according to the police.
The investigation would be suspended if the child were to be adopted; however, Alter stated on Tuesday that the case remains active and that police are actively seeking leads.
Anyone with information regarding the case was urged to contact the youth division at 202-576-6768 or 202-576-6771, per his request.