BELOIT, Wis. - About this time of year more than 30 years ago fast-food workers in Beloit found a baby in a dumpster. The little girl's death has weighed heavily on the community and investigators said they need help solving the cold case.
The baby girl was only alive a short time, but she made a long-lasting impact on a lot of people.
Police said her parents never came forward, but a community did and gave the little girl they call ‘Baby Valentine' a proper goodbye.
"I just had to do something," Beloit resident Tami Robson said. "It was so sad; you could just feel the overall loss of a baby we didn't even know."
Robson, who was 22 years old at the time, mourned a life lost too soon, along with her entire town.
"It just had to tear the community apart that something like this would happen," Beloit police Detective John Fahrney said.
Two days before Valentine's Day in 1982, at Milwaukee Road and Interstate 90, some McDonald's employees had a startling sighting.
"The McDonald's workers went out to empty the trash, and when they opened the dumpster they saw a small baby's arm reaching through a plastic bag," Fahrney said.
The 5-pound Caucasian girl lived about 10 hours, Farhney said. Her mother may have given birth in one of the hotels nearby.
"This whole winter has been reminiscent of that day basically," Fahrney said. "I mean, it's been cold."
So cold that her grave site at East Lawn Cemetery is frozen over.
"A group of citizens from Beloit collected enough money to get a headstone," Fahrney said.
The headstone is shaped like a heart in honor of the holiday, and the dress she was buried in was handmade by the coroner's wife for a funeral strangers showed up to, according to a newspaper report of the funeral.
"He did some readings and then we all did some prayers for her," said Robson, who attended Baby Valentine's funeral. She wasn't yet a mother, but had the same instinct nonetheless.
"Our mom just up and left us for me to watch these kids and I was only 14," said Robson, who raised all of her siblings. She refused to let them grow up alone and she hopes Baby Valentine hasn't felt alone either.
"I like to go back at least once a year and bring her some flowers or a teddy bear," Robson said.
While the case captivated a lot of attention, investigators got few tips in the beginning. Now Fahrney hopes someone comes forward to help put the case to rest.
"If somebody would just be willing to call and say, 'This is who the mother was, this is what happened,' anonymously through Crime Stoppers, that's all we're asking for," said Fahrney, who's sure the baby's mother is from Beloit.
He said the baby was wrapped in a bread bag from the former local grocery store, The Food Basket. The State Crime Lab is processing fingerprints.
Fahrney is also tracking down the couple who rented a room at one of those nearby hotels in 1982. During their investigation police found bloody sheets, but a doctor ruled the woman that rented the room where the sheets were found wasn't pregnant when Baby Valentine was born. Fahrney wants to test her DNA with new technology.
Officials ask if you know anything about Baby Valentine's case to call Beloit Area Crime Stoppers at 608-362-7463.
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