Author Topic: BARNES COUNTY BABY DOE: WF - newborn found in Valley City, ND - April 16, 1981  (Read 85 times)


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The body of a newborn baby girl was located in a wooded area of southwest Valley City.  She was found in leaves and underbrush, and believed to have been left there within 24 hours of the time she was found.

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Case Information
Case Numbers
NCMEC Number --
ME/C Case Number 81-141
Sex Female
Race / Ethnicity White / Caucasian
Possible First Name --
Possible Middle Name--
Possible Last Name--
Possible Nickname--
Estimated Age Group Infant
Estimated Age Range (Years)--
Estimated Year of Death--
Estimated PMI 24 Hours
Height Cannot Estimate
Weight Cannot Estimate

Type Unidentified Deceased
Date Body Found April 16, 1981
NamUs Case Created March 28, 2020
ME/C QA Reviewed--
Location Found Map
Location Valley City, North Dakota
County Barnes County
GPS Coordinates (Not Mapped)--
Found On Tribal Land Unknown
Circumstances of Recovery The body of a newborn baby girl was located in a wooded area of southwest Valley City.  She was found in leaves and underbrush, and believed to have been left there within 24 hours of the time she was found.

Details of Recovery
Inventory of Remains All parts recovered
Condition of Remains Recognizable face

Physical Description
Hair Color Unknown
Head Hair Description: Possibly brownish red
Body Hair Description --
Facial Hair Description --
Left Eye Color Unknown
Right Eye Color Unknown
Eye Description --
Distinctive Physical Features: No Information Entered


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Remains exhumed for DNA testing in unsolved 1981 case of baby discovered in Valley City

 Written By: Kim Hyatt and Phoenix Bauer | Jul 23rd 2019 - 4pm.

VALLEY CITY, N.D. — Baby Rebecca may finally get a last name.

The baby girl found dead on April 15, 1981, in Valley City has remained the city's only unsolved homicide case. Rebecca, as the community named her, would be 38 years old today.

"The child appeared to be a newborn infant with reddish hair and wore no clothes," a Forum article from April 17, 1981, reads. "No marks were visible on the infant's body, and police have no clue to the child's identity."

That's still true to this day. No suspects have been named, and no one has come forward with information about who Rebecca is.

But when authorities in Sioux Falls, S.D., used new advancements in DNA and genealogy records to solve a similar case from February 1981, North Dakota officials took notice. In that case, an abandoned baby named Andrew John Doe was left in a ditch and he died. The case was finally solved earlier this year, resulting in the prosecution of Andrew’s mother, Theresa Bentaas.

Valley City Police Chief Phil Hatcher said prosecution in Rebecca’s case is on the back burner. What matters now is determining the girl's last name and finding a family to claim her, he said.

“What really lit a fire under us was the case in South Dakota. It about mirrors our case,” he said. “That kind of helped us to start making some steps on the pathway they had. Their case helped ours.”

Hatcher grew up in Valley City and was 5 years old when Rebecca was found. He hopes his department is the one to finally close the case.

“It makes you wonder through all the years, all the police officers invested so much time,” he said. “I think we have the greatest shot right now with the DNA evidence. They didn’t have that.”

Generations of police officers have tried solving the case over the years, Hatcher said.

On June 28, the Barnes County state’s attorney signed an order to exhume Rebecca’s body, which was sent to the medical examiner’s office at the University of North Dakota on July 18. Since then, biological samples have been taken to begin determining Rebecca’s bloodline.

The police chief back then, Jack Ladbury, told The Forum at the time of the tragic discovery that the baby was found in a wooded area in southwest Valley City by Margaret Halvorson. An autopsy determined the cause of death was asphyxiation. A Forum article from April 18, 1981, said “the infant was found with a plastic sheet around her head.”

Ladbury said Halvorson "first thought the child's body was a lost doll," according to Forum archives. He believed the baby was left in the woods within 24 hours of the time she was found and at that time did not know "whether the child was dead when it was abandoned." Police found the baby in leaves and underbrush after being dispatched to the 200 block of Viking Drive Southwest.

Hatcher said Valley City officers back then pitched in money for burial costs, including a headstone that reads: “BABY GIRL REBECCA, KNOWN TO GOD.” An officer even donated their own daughter’s christening dress for Rebecca to be buried in.

Hatcher said he wonders about the mother. “What’s the story? Was she afraid? Was she traumatized?” he said.

The baby was found near the state college campus, so Hatcher wonders if the mother was a college student. He said the investigation involved over 300 interviews with nurses, neighborhood residents and students.

“There is somebody, maybe two people out there that know what the end of this story is or what the beginning of this story was, and we need to talk to them,” Hatcher said. "Hopefully there’s a family out there that can claim her."

Hatcher hopes DNA results will come back before the end of summer. Police are asking anyone with information about the case to call them at 701-845-3110.