Chicago police hope sketch leads to dead child's identity
FOX 32's Craig Wall contributed to this report.
CHICAGO (AP/ STMW) - A sketch artist is examining the head of a toddler found last weekend in a Chicago lagoon to create a drawing that can be used to identify the child, police said Wednesday.
At a news conference near a lagoon at Garfield Park where the decomposed head, hands and feet were found, police said they hope someone will recognize the child when the drawing is distributed.
Police also suggested that even a vague description they have of the child - African-American between the ages of 2 and 4 years old - might be enough to help the investigation.
"If you are aware of a small child ... that you have not seen in your neighborhood in the last couple of weeks and you find that unusual or suspicious to call us," John Escalante, the department's chief of detectives, said in a plea for help from the public. "If you are aware of, for example, of a family that has a small child that suddenly packed up and moved ... and you think that's unusual or suspicious, please call us."
Authorities also spoke directly to the killer or killers.
"Do the right thing, turn yourself in," department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. "We are going to find you."
"Our goal right now is to, number one, identify this poor child, to identify the parents, and to figure out how and why this child was dismembered and left here in the lagoon," Escanlante added.
Police said they think the remains were dumped in the lagoon within the last week or two, though they have not said when they believe the child was killed. They also said they have not determined a cause of death, but Guglielmi said that tests revealed the body was dismembered after the child died.
Detectives have been combing through missing persons reports both in and out of Chicago and officers and volunteers have been going door-to-door near the park asking for help. DNA tests were being conducted, police said, and fingerprints would be collected as part of the effort to identify the child.
Divers and others have searched the lagoon, and authorities started draining it Wednesday in the hopes of finding the rest of the toddler's body and possibly other evidence.
“Even with our most sophisticated sonar equipment it becomes useless in this situation, we have to get in and do grid searches and literally on your hands and knees touch and feel and pick up every single item under there to see what it is,” said Chicago Police Deputy Chief Steve Georgas.
Overnight rain, though, rolled back some of the progress investigators had made in draining the lagoon.
“Rain slowed us down,” Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday morning.
Still, progress of a receded waterline was evident in several inches of brown foliage ringing the shore that — until Tuesday — had been under water.
Two large hoses attached to generators continued to pump out western half of the murky lagoon Wednesday morning.
Draining began about noon Tuesday. An estimate of how long the process will take was not available Wednesday morning.
Police have devoted a great deal of resources to the investigation, including Marine Unit divers crawling along the shoreline on all fours to the continual presence of manned squad cars guarding the perimeter of a swath of land that covers several acres of park.
A park-goer found a foot floating in the lagoon Saturday afternoon. Then, a search of the lagoon turned up the other body parts nearby.
All the body parts appeared to be of a child the same age. The hair was short, curly and black in color. The eyes were brown and the child’s ears weren’t pierced, according the statement.
“All efforts will be made to scientifically identify these body parts, which were badly decomposed,” the statement said.
The medical examiner’s office will consult with a dentist and other specialists to glean more information from the badly decomposed body parts, office spokesman Frank Shuftan said Tuesday.
Shuftan said that DNA samples taken from the human remains have been submitted for testing.
The medical examiner’s office notified police that the victim was dismembered after death, Guglielmi said.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has offered time off and counseling to the first responders who discovered the remains, Guglielmi said.
“The officers were affected by what they found, but they were dedicated to finding the rest,” he said.
Several Marine Unit officers were in their wet suits longer than normal and one was treated for dehydration, Guglielmi said.
“This is something we are taking extremely personally,” he said.
For people who frequent the park, the crime is chilling.
FOX 32: What kind of person could do this?
“Somebody that's sick and twisted. Cause I can't see somebody in their right state of mind could do that to a kid,” said neighbor Debra Marshal.
Guglielmi said Chicago Police detectives don’t think the remains belong to King Walker, a 2-year-old boy who disappeared from Gary, Ind., with his aunt on July 25. Gary detectives had inquired about that possibility.
Police and the medical examiner’s office are asking anyone with leads on missing children fitting the description to contact Area North detectives at 312-744-8261.
The following is a joint statement from the ME’s office and CPD:
Working in collaboration with the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office has concluded its initial examination of body parts found in the Garfield Park lagoon over the weekend. At this time, we have determined the following: the victim was most likely an African American child (though mixed race heritage cannot be excluded) between 18 months and 4 years of age (best estimate 2-3 years old). All the body parts appear to be from a child of approximately the same age. The hair was short, curly and black in color; the eyes were brown; and the earlobes were not pierced, suggesting the child may be male (but female gender cannot be ruled out at present).
DNA samples have been submitted and a dental consultation has taken place. Fingerprints and footprints have been taken by the Chicago Police Department. An anthropological consultation is pending. All efforts will be made to scientifically identify these body parts, which were badly decomposed. If anyone has any leads on missing children fitting this description, we ask them to contact CPD Area North Detectives at 312-744-8261.
No timeline is set for the ultimate ruling on cause and manner of death.