Originally published on November 10, 2017 at http://dickiefloydnovels.com
Reposted with permission.
It was July 9, 2002, and the Southern California sun had driven the mercury to three-digits by 10:00 a.m. Being outdoors was bad enough, wearing a suit made it worse. Recovering a murdered baby from the recycling center was nearly unbearable. It was another day working Homicide.
I shed the coat, unbuttoned and rolled up my sleeves, loosened my tie and looked across the parking lot beyond the chain link fence to the mountains of debris. It would be a long day.
An employee sorting trash had made the discovery when the pungent smell of rotting flesh gagged him. He assumed it to be a dog or cat, but then he saw the arm.
He called for the lines to be shut down, pulled the bag from the conveyor, and notified a supervisor. But before the belts stopped, the trash near the remains had moved beyond his workstation and dropped into an enormous pile below. Finding evidence would now be near impossible.
My partner and I were joined by a coroner’s investigator. We donned latex gloves and went to work, sifting trash into the evening hours. We hoped to find something that would lead us to the origin of the trash. A place where a would-be mother held a dark secret.
With literally tons of trash to sort and search, there was no way to pinpoint a geographical area from where the trash had come. We were finding addresses from every region of the vast county and beyond.
We pulled log sheets and saw there were dozens of companies with trucks that had delivered trash during the previous twenty-four hours. The geographical boundaries were nearly non-existent, stretching to the outskirts of a hundred-mile radius. It became clear we were not going to determine from where the baby came through this search.
Our only hope would be the media. We issued a plea to the public for information. If anyone knew anything, we needed them to call. We included information about the Safely Surrendered Baby Law, which states there are no questions asked of any parent or grandparent who leaves an unwanted baby at a fire station or hospital within 72 hours of birth. It was a plea of sorts, maybe a public service announcement, a message to the frightened and confused.
We never received a single phone call.
The next day, my fortieth birthday, I attended the postmortem examination of the infant’s remains, where it was determined she died within hours of birth and took at least one breath. Which means she wasn’t stillborn; this was a case of murder. Mode of death: homicide. Manner of death: suffocation.
As the autopsy concluded, I stood inches from the cold, stainless steel table, staring at her delicate little body. It occurred to me how few of us are cursed with the knowledge of these horrific incidents of violence against children. I thought of the man who, day after day, silently sifts through the waste of others for minimum wage, and I wondered how the discovery of Baby Doe affected him. I was accustomed to death, and it did a number on me.
I thought about my fortieth birthday, something that to some is a big deal. To me, the day meant nothing, and the thought of a celebration repulsed me. I’d purposely put in a long day so there would be nothing planned. Maybe I’d have a drink later, but it wouldn’t be a celebratory one.
There is a place in Riverside County, California, where abandoned and otherwise forgotten children are given a name, a memorial service, and a final resting place. Created in 1996 by Debi Faris, who was inspired by the story of a murdered, unnamed child, it is now the final resting place for more than a hundred discarded souls. It is appropriately called the Garden of Angels.
Believing these little ones were called to heaven as angels is the only way I can make sense of their tragic deaths. May they rest in peace.
Happy Holidays! I hope you are getting some time off for the holidays and you use it to actually relax. It will be the start of a New Year (and the resolutions and goals that come with it) soon enough, so give yourself a break in the meantime.
I know this can be a trying time of year for many, so remember to take care of yourself. If you are hosting family members, remember: It isn’t selfish to carve out alone-time. Make time to write and read. This will help you enjoy the time you do get to spend together with family.
My wife and I will be spending our Christmas down in San Diego. Both of our families are spread all across the globe this holiday, so we’re renting a condo at the beach for a Christmas that will hopefully resemble a Corona “Feliz Navidad” commercial. Are you traveling anywhere special this holiday? Be sure to bring a notebook or have a writing app handy on your phone to document your travel. You never know when travel notes will become useful story research!
For my NaNo'ers, I hope you all conquered your National Novel Writing Month goal!
I am really stoked at how active the WRITERSDETECTIVE Q&A forum on Facebook has been lately. The Q&A Forum is a year round venue for you to post questions, not just during NaNoWriMo. I have corrected the pinned post at the top of the forum that suggested it was only for NaNoWriMo. Terri Swann, one of my earliest and dearest supporters of writersdetective.com, created this awesome spreadsheet of resources for crime writers. Much of the list is compiled from links mentioned in previous APB emails and Terri added some of her own research resources as well. It's awesome having all of these research links in one place and grouped by category. Thank you, Terri!!!!
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