MIAMI, Okla. — An Ottawa County grave marker carries a haunting 35-year-old secret.  

Baby Boy Doe is buried in a simple grave at Miami’s GAR cemetery with grass beginning to obscure the headstone.

The graves of other infants surround that of Baby Boy Doe’s and show signs of faded mementos from grieving family members. But, no flowers, toy trucks or trains, or even a teddy bear adorns Baby Boy Doe’s grave.

“Although the community gave the baby a proper burial,” said Mark Wall.  “I want to give him a name.”

Wall is part of a team working under the direction of District Attorney Doug Pewitt who is breathing life into cold cases in northeast Oklahoma.

But Baby Boy Doe’s case isn’t cold. According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System database, Baby Boy Doe is an “unclaimed” person, he said.

Wall said he believes there are people in the area that are familiar with the case and with the passing of time they will come forward and help solve this case.

The baby’s remains were found on Feb. 1, 1988, wrapped in a blanket or bath towel and placed inside a clear plastic bag. The bag was laying on the floor near an old couch in the garage of the abandoned house.  A man rummaging through abandoned houses stumbled onto the baby’s remains, according to two published reports dated Feb. 2 and Feb. 3, 1988, from the Joplin Globe and the Oklahoman.  

An autopsy showed Baby Boy Doe was a white male child, weighing about three pounds, 19 inches long and was stillborn, according to published reports.

“We have been in contact with the state Medical Examiner’s office to see if there are any tissue samples or perhaps the blanket or towel,” Wall said.

The abandoned house was known as a party house with empty beer cans strewn around the floor, according to published reports.

The Oklahoman, Feb. 3, 1988

Other news articles published at that time stated the baby “had been mauled by animals” and it was difficult for authorities to determine how long the baby had been at the abandoned house.

The baby’s body was so badly decomposed, one of his limbs was not recovered and he was not recognizable due to “animal activity,” according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System database.

That entry in the database was a lot for the retired law enforcement officer and grandfather to handle.  

“I don’t understand how his body has never been claimed,” Wall said.

“What I remember about that day, was how cold it was,” said Grove Police Chief Mark Morris.

The temperature for those early days in February was below freezing with freezing rain, according to published reports.

In 1988, Morris was with the Quapaw Police Department and a member of the county’s drug task force.

“There was no power to the house,” Morris said. “There was no garage door – it was just open.”

“It was horrific,” Morris said. “Any time you have a baby’s death – it’s horrific.”

Baby Boy Doe was buried in a tiny white casket on Feb. 8, 1988, and interred in the “Babyland” area of GAR cemetery. A Miami funeral home assumed the burial costs, according to published reports.

A Heavy Burden

“If the mother is still in the area, I hope she feels like she can now come forward,” Wall said. “This has probably been a heavy weight for her to carry for 35 years.”

“He was just a baby,” Wall said.  “For some reason, that most of us can’t understand, he was abandoned in a cold house by his mother.”

The baby’s mother was likely young and frightened, he said. She could have been involved with a man who was physically abusive towards her, Wall said.

“Fortunately, today we have many resources available for women in less-than-ideal situations that this mother possibly faced,” Wall said.

It is estimated that 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year in the United States, with approximately 1,000 of those bodies remaining unidentified after one year, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System database.

The database lists 111 unidentified Oklahomans, followed by  Arkansas with 106, Missouri 96 and Kansas with 25 unidentified persons.   

If you have information on Baby Boy Doe, please call Mark Wall at (918) 542-5547.  All information is confidential.