DNA May Help Solve Deaths of Three Babies Found in Minnesota River

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Genetic genealogy may be the key to unraveling the mystery of how and why three infants were found dead in a Minnesota river three times in a decade.

The unidentified infants were found in the Mississippi River of Goodhue County, Minnesota between 1999 and 2007, reports St. Paul’s Pioneer Press.

In August 2020, the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office launched a public appeal for financial contributions to help pay for genealogical inquiries for two of the three cases. They announced that they had partnered with Virginia-based Parabon Snapshot DNA, which would conduct genetic genealogy analysis reports.

The sheriff’s office would pay for the first of three babies found.

On November 4, 1999, a Red Wing fisherman discovered a little Caucasian girl near Bay Point Park. She was wrapped in a towel and would be one to two weeks old.

Police said she had been in the water for some time, due to the advanced stage of decomposition.

Four years later and 20 miles away, four teenagers came across the body of a newborn male along the shores of Lac Pépin near Frontenac. Investigators say the boy was between four and five days old.

Less sophisticated DNA testing has led authorities to believe the first two infants were related by the mother, the sheriff’s office fundraiser said.

On March 26, 2007, two employees of the Treasure Island Resort and Casino found another newborn girl at a boat hold. The girl is believed to be Native American or Hispanic.

Investigators could not determine whether the baby was dead or alive when it was put in the water.

But now the technology provided by genetic genealogy, which uses profiling and DNA testing to identify family members through databases, is helping law enforcement move forward with the ongoing investigation.

“We got leads that (the department) followed,” said Glen Barringer, retired Goodhue County investigator, according to Pioneer Press. “It kind of goes from track to track. It takes a long time for (the lead investigator) when he has the opportunity to work on it. But for the case of 1999, we got a few names.

Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office investigator Jon Huneke is now leading the investigation.

“We have miles ahead, but we have miles to go,” Barringer said. “We have a 50-70% chance (of solving them). Before, we were at 10 percent.

Genetic genealogy is emerging as a standard scientific technique that helps law enforcement agencies across the country solve unresolved cases, including The Golden State Killer, The BTK Killer, and The Grim Sleeper.

Barringer, who retired just a month after submitting the blood samples to Parabon, spoke of the difficulty in dealing with the case.

“We had a family who donated three graves for these babies,” Barringer continued. “All cops have business haunting them.”

The case of the three unidentified infants remains open.

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