Found in the Basement

This week's Missing Person Monday post involves two dead bodies that were likely never reported missing.

The following story was forwarded to me by Guest Blogger Crime Buff

The case is interesting, but I thought one aspect was especially curious: It is difficult to imagine that a chief of police would be harshly criticized after promising a "vigorous investigation" related to two dead infants who were recently discovered: 
..."We'll put detectives on this case for the long term," (Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie) Beck told The Times.
"We'll try to reconstruct the circumstances based on what the coroner tells us, based on the history of the residence and based on science. We have many more tools and technology available to us than before, which may allow for identification of the victims and closure to any family members."
Why is the chief facing the heat?

The article on the case reveals additional details:
Found with the Remains: Ticket Stub to the 1932 Olympics
(LOS ANGELES) The two women who found the remains of two infants in a MacArthur Park apartment building said they were so scared after opening the first bundle inside an old steamer trunk that they called police before opening the second.

Building manager Gloria Gomez and tenant Yiming Xing were checking out the contents of three trunks in the storage room, which used to be a ballroom, in the basement of the elegant 1923 structure Tuesday in the 800 block of Lake Street.

The trunks had been given to Gomez by the building's owner after no one claimed them. Gomez and Xing said they opened the first two trunks, but they were empty. The third was locked and after a considerable struggle were finally able to break the lock with a screwdriver.

"We got all excited because the first thing we found was a crystal dish,” Gomez said.

They also found clothing, aged photographs, old postcards and books. Both Gomez and Xing thought the items may have belonged to a very wealthy woman. On some of the documents was the name Jean M. Barrie.

At the bottom of the trunk were two black leather satchels that looked like doctor's bags. Gomez opened one and found a small parcel wrapped in newspaper, which she handed to Xing to open.

Xing took off the pages of a 1935 Los Angeles Times and found a white sheet, which she unwrapped.

“I saw something not very pleasant and very unusual,” she said. “It didn’t have any shape to it. But it seemed like a dried-out body.”

...Scared to open the second bundle, they called the police. When LAPD officers arrived, they opened the second satchel and made a similar discovery. The skeletal remains inside the second bundle were larger than the first and wrapped in the pages of a 1932 Los Angeles Times.

Xing described the second one as dried like a mummy with brown hair and a full skeleton...
I am sure that detectives are hoping the coroner will provide some specifics after the autopsies are completed.  Certainly, this may not even be a criminal matter considering that the infants could have perished of natural causes. 

Interesting that the Times' reader comments are overwhelmingly against the chief's announcement of  a "vigorous investigation" in this case. 

They argue that assigning investigators to a couple of 70+ year-old cases (or apparently very old cases that is) is not a wise investment of resources.

Why am I cautious rather than recommending anyone join the side of the vocal readers?

Though, it is reasonable to argue that the chief's aggressive investigation statements involving an incident from so long ago is not how police should be spending their time, I would want to read the coroner's reports before dismissing the LAPD efforts as a waste of time. 

Just because something looks old and is found with 1932 items, does not necessarily mean that it was not cleverly arranged to appear early 20th Century in origin--when the bodies are really from 2002.

In any event, it is sad to think that the bodies of two infants sat forgotten in a basement for so long.


Photo credit: LA Times.


Momma Fargo said...

Very interesting case. Please keep us updated.

Holly said...

What an interesting an unusual case. No matter what was said,some one would have an argument. If it wasn't "why are we wasting time and resources on this," it would be "why aren't we using our resource son this." I will be interested to see how this plays out.

obladi oblada said...

Hmm...I have to agree with Holly. People are never happy with what the police do.

Definitely a good idea to investigate this although it is LIKELy that these infants put in their by their mother for whatever reason (still born, murder..), its never good to ASSume in cases like this.

Jackie said...

I read about this case about a week ago. It's very unusual, but from the 30's, depression. Women often couldn't afford children... not totally unheard of.

Keep us updated i'll be interested to see if this goes anywhere...


My Husband's Watching TV... said...

So the bodies were really from 2002? Were the two babies related? Twins? So crazy! Def keep us updated!

Herding Cats said...

That is quite mysterious and really interesting. I would be curious to see the autopsy reports. Keep us updated on this one!

Hilary said...

My thought was that it could have deliberately been misleading as to the timeline.. but interesting no matter how or when.

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Interesting case and very sad.

Diane said...

Crazy, crazy story! Hope it is case closed some day.

SuziCate said...

Interesting, certainly would have been disconcerting to have been the one who opened the trunk. I wonder if it was criminal or natural causes, and wonder if they can determine that after all these years.

J. J. in Phila said...

Dead babies are not unknown. Five were found in Gallitzin, PA c. 1980.

It is important to find the age and cause of death. A 70-75 year old case may not be worth the resources, but the case should should first be determined to be a 70-75 year old case.

Slamdunk said...

@ My Husband's Watching TV: Sorry I wasn't clear on that. I meant that it would be shameful for everyone if the found bodies were determined later to be from 2002 when they were assumed to be from 1932.

Stephanie Faris said...

Eeek. I hate cases involving babies.

ladyfi said...

Oh gosh, poor women who found the bodies!

Okie said...

A very intriguing story...and I think your hypothesis (whether it turns out to be valid or not) would make for a very intriguing twist in a mystery story.

Granted, with today's autopsy techniques, it would be harder to get away with turning your modern day murder into an instant "cold case" but if this was a mystery story set in the late 70s or early 80s even, but with random memorabilia from the late 19th century, it could be an instance of a killer committing not the "unsolvable" crime but rather the "wouldn't be bothered with" crime.

Beth Zimmerman said...

That is so sad! I understand that it's unlikely that a culprit (if there is one) will be found if the bodies truly ARE 70+ years old. But I agree with you ... more info is needed before anyone jumps to judgment!

Krista said...

Oh my goodness! This is so sad... but fascinating too! I hope you'll keep us posted if you learn anything more! :o)

Kat O'Keeffe said...

Woah! What a crazy/sad/interesting/unusual case! News stories like this make me think of the story behind it. Who were the babies? How did they get there? What is the story of the person who left them there? Sometimes real life is crazier than anything you can dream up for a book.

I hope they figure out the truth! Keep us updated if you hear any more!

Sue said...

I'm with you. Just because articles found with are old does not mean the bodies are.

So, so, so sad.

ocmist said...

Interesting story... sometimes facts are stranger than fiction. It should be interesting to see what happens.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
It seems to me that each death counts. That the deaths might be 70 years old does not matter.

That is why there is no statute of limitations on murder, either.

I do agree with some of the other comments though, it may have been a natural death and the bodies do seem as if they were wrapped for transport, perhaps to be buried in a holy land or an immigrant's land.

So you are right that the autopsy is of prime importance, too.

Ann T.