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Two months later, search continues for Baby Doe’s identity

Mike Rapaglia posted a flier on the rectory door at Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Winthrop on Thursday.
Mike Rapaglia posted a flier on the rectory door at Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Winthrop on Thursday. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

State Police have investigated 210 leads in the nearly two months since a 4-year-old girl’s body was found on a Deer Island beach.

One hundred fifty young girls have been ruled out since the June 25 discovery, in a search spanning 36 states and several countries. Most of the girls were found alive and well across the United States and in countries including Mexico, Trinidad, Peru, Puerto Rico, and India, while two other leads concerning girls from France and Brazil have not yet been ruled out, said State Police spokesman David Procopio.

Toxicology tests and an autopsy have so far turned up empty: The manner and cause of death is unknown, and no pathogens, toxins, or diseases have been found.


But forensic studies may yet help determine the identity of the girl, nicknamed Baby Doe by concerned citizens.

Pollen tests by the US Customs and Border Protection laboratory determined that she spent time near trees growing in the Boston area.

“The pollen confirms that she spent at least part of her life in or around Boston,” Procopio said. “But it doesn’t necessarily rule out the fact that she could have gone missing from another location farther away.”

Investigators are also enlisting the help of IsoForensics, a forensic company in Utah where scientists will test the girl’s hair for different forms of atoms, also called isotopes. Differences in drinking water across the country produce unique isotopes in a person’s hair, so analyzing the girl’s hair samples may pinpoint where she lived.

University of North Texas scientists are also extracting her mitochondrial DNA, which could potentially match a close adult relative on a national DNA database.

“Scientists may help us determine where she was from,” said Jake Wark, spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office. “But ultimately it will likely be a person who knew her who will tell us who she was.”


On Thursday, Lorraine Noel, 34, stood on a rocky ledge by the sea on Deer Island, rearranging stuffed animals and plucking dead flowers from a memorial for Baby Doe.

“The sense of her being alone on that beach with no name is very hurtful,” said Noel, 34, who helps lead a group called Justice for Baby Doe. “The only way to bring a positive to this situation is to give [Baby Doe] her identity.”

Justice for Baby Doe organized a candlelit vigil last month and is trying to enlist volunteers who would e-mail local schools and post flyers across the area.

“We thought flyers would be a good way to renew the memory of what happened,” Noel said. Flyers could inform people who had been away from Boston this summer, said Debbie Larson, a co-organizer of Justice for Baby Doe.

Lorraine Noel tended to the memorial at the site where Baby Doe was found at Deer Island in Winthrop.
Lorraine Noel tended to the memorial at the site where Baby Doe was found at Deer Island in Winthrop.(Craig F. Walker / Globe Staff)

Noel and Larson met Thursday in the rectory room of St. John the Evangelist Church in Winthrop, eager to hand out lists of schools, parks, playgrounds, and more. But only three volunteers showed up.

“Just because it happened a while back, people forget. But it’s always in my mind,” said Jeannie Spinazola of Hyde Park. “It’s heart-wrenching to any mother.”

Spinazola said she would post flyers in Dorchester, South End, Roxbury, and the Back Bay. Her daughter, Jillian Ashley Grimes, 31, said she would target Revere parks.

“It’s taken so long to find out who she is,” Grimes said. “Her face is haunting the whole city.”


Justice for Baby Doe organizers will arrange another volunteer meeting in September. An “e-vigil” next Tuesday will honor the girl online, as people post pictures of candles and prayers on the Justice for Baby Doe Facebook page.

“It’s been a while, but I have faith that the State Police and the district attorney’s office will identify her,” Larson said.

Anyone with information can contact a tipline at 617-396-5655, or text the word “GIRL” with a tip to 67283.

Rosa Nguyen can be reached at rosa.nguyen@globe.com.