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“Unknown Baby” found on U.S. 30 in 1952

Gone Cold - Exploring iowa's Unsolved Murders

July 21, 2016
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Iowa Cold Cases, a year-long series on unsolved murders in Iowa and the stories behind them have been appearing in The Chronicle and News-Herald. The series is a cooperative effort of Iowa newspapers and the Iowa Newspaper Association. Many of the stories have focused on more recent crimes. This one dates to 1952.

The case of the Highway 30 Unknown Baby goes back to June 11, 1952. On that day, a road construction worker discovered the body of a baby boy in a box along what was then the route of U.S. Highway 30, about four miles west of Tama.

(Walter Willett, who was serving as Tama County Attorney in 1952 confirmed to me in 2008 the case, to his recollection, had remained unsolved.)

Article Photos

Headlines of the 1952 issue of The Chronicle reports the grim details of the body of a baby found west of Tama on what was then U.S. Highway 30 on June 11, 1952. The case was evidently never solved.

The records of the Tama County Sheriff's Office from that era were believed damaged and then destroyed when in storage at the old Tama County home north of Toledo according to Chief Deputy Sheriff Chad Hansen.

Similarly, records of the Tama County Attorney's Office from the time also are not available Tama County Attorney Brent Heeren said.

Alex R. Murphy, Public Information Officer for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation was to check records at Chronicle press time to see if any information about the case could be released now.

However, much of the investigation of the death and aftermath was reported in much detail in two subsequent issues of The Toledo Chronicle and The Tama News-Herald as was the reporting style and apparent ready access to information at that time.

The Chronicle offered a $50 reward for information, but apparently to no avail and the case remains unsolved after some 64 years.

The following lays out some of the newspaper accounts of the death and subsequent findings:

V.C. Anderman, Hazelton, Iowa, foreman of a crew constructing a new shoulder along Highway 30 found a box 350 feet east of the Raven Creek bridge on the south side of the roadway "five feet from the paving slab." He untied a cord around the box, dumped it out and was "horrified to find the baby wrapped in paper."

The box was a Wilson Packing Company box marked "chilli. What was contained in the box were what was described as "two packages of paper wrapping." They were the April 17 and May 8 issues of The Marshalltown Times-Republican.

One was around the baby's body, the second contained the afterbirth. The newspapers had no mailing address attached, but two "stars" were discovered on the newspapers. This indicated they had been delivered on a Marshalltown city route.

Covering the two packages was what were described as a "tea towels" with embroidery of a lamb in one corner and a second with the numerals "49" in black.

Anderman took the box containing the baby to the Tama County Courthouse in Toledo. Auditor W.C. Hufford who was there at 7:50 a.m. called Sheriff Russell Kern who came to the courthouse immediately. Kern notified Tama County Coroner Harvey Jones and the body was taken to the nearby office of Dr. C.W. Maplethorpe Sr.

That night, Dr. W.E. Weland, pathologist at Mercy Hospital, Cedar Rapids, came to Toledo and conducted autopsy. He found the baby's skull had been fractured. The newspaper lead to the story states"This, of course means murder, and very likely will result in a Grand Jury investigation and an indictment on a charge murder." The report of the autopsy says Dr. Weland determined the boy had been alive two and one-half to three hours after birth as "the lnmgs had been inflated with air giving proof that the baby was alive after birth."

The infant was described as a white male, weighing eight pounds, with some blond hair and being fully developed.

A Coroner's Jury, convened and concluded "We find that the unknown deceased came to his death by unlawful means by unknown person or persons. We futher find the deceased was a normal child, and evidence disclosed that birth was normal. We furhter find from the evidence of the pathologist that the child was born alive."

The newspaper accounts report much speculation on motive, parents and circumstances.



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