Midstate Mysteries: The death of Baby Mary Anne - abc27 WHTM

Lancaster County

Midstate Mysteries: The death of Baby Mary Anne

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Dolores Yecker remembers it like it was yesterday.

She clearly remembers hearing the horrific news that a newborn baby girl had been found dead in a dumpster near the Lancaster YMCA.

"I just couldn't imagine anybody putting a little human being into such a horrible place," Dolores said.

It's been five years since the tragic discovery of the little girl Dolores named Mary Anne. She was so touched by the news, she made sure the baby had a funeral and was properly laid to rest in Saint Anthonys Cemetery. She made sure she was buried with a blanket and a doll.

"I try to picture her as a little five-year-old running around...maybe pigtails," she said.

Investigators Frustrated

Dolores hasn't forgotten about the baby who was born alive, killed, and literally thrown away a mere two blocks from a hospital that was ready and willing to take her, no questions asked.

Dolores hasn't forgotten and neither has Sgt. Sonja Stebbins of the Lancaster City Police Department.

"To think that a baby, an innocent child died in this manner...it bothers me," Stebbins said.

Stebbins said she's interviewed about 30 potential mothers and followed several promising leads throughout the investigation. But all these years later, there is still very little she can say for sure about the little girl discovered that warm September day.

What she does know; Mary Anne weighed five pounds, eight ounces, and was 22 inches long. She had brown hair, had been wrapped in several layers, and had been placed into a unique canvas bag.

The bag was from a 2005 Bermuda convention for the Pennsylvania Land Title Association, an organization based in King of Prussia. It was a very specific lead that ultimately went nowhere.

Stebbins said she tracked many of the people who attended the conference, but couldn't account for bags that were perhaps thrown away or donated to Goodwill.

Right now, Stebbins said she doesn't even have enough to develop a working scenario about what happened to Mary Anne. Was her death the result of her mother? Her father? Someone else? Was her mother a city resident? A scared teenager? Why was that specific dumpster at the YMCA chosen?

"We don't know the scenario," Stebbins said. "Obviously, the mother is the closest link. That's why we focus on the mother."

At the cemetery, Mary Anne's heart-shaped memorial stone stands out among the rest. Many wonder if her mother ever came to grieve at the gravesite. Did she leave a memento or say a prayer? For a while, Lancaster police admit they were watching and waiting for her, but that, too turned out to be yet another dead end in an already frustrating investigation.

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman believes someone in this community knows something that can lead them to Mary Anne's mother.

"And it's not too late," Sedan said. "It's not too late today, it's not too late tomorrow or the next day, to come forward and really help right some wrong to the degree that we can."

Stebbins agrees.

"We just urge them to be honest," she said. "It may set you free, as the old adage goes."

 A Community Seeking Closure

Chip Snyder of the Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home believes the community deserves answers. He often visits the little girl he buried in a 24-inch white casket.

"I saw Baby Mary Anne and she was a beautiful girl," he said. "I mean it was a full-term baby. She could have been going home in somebody's arms to grow and she'd be five-years-old today."

Instead, Mary Anne remains buried in a cemetery where her grave is marked by a stone that carries no last name. It's a place that Dolores will continue to visit, praying that one day the little girl will finally be able to rest in peace.

"I'm sure she wants her mother," Dolores said. "I'm sure she wants her mother to come forward and I'm sure she forgives her."

How to Help

If you have any information about the death of Baby Mary Anne, you're urged to contact the Lancaster City Police Department at 717-735-3300. You can also contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-322-1913. Tips can also be texted to 847411. You're asked to type LANCS and then your message. Crime Stoppers tips and text messages can be made anonymously.

For more information about Pennsylvania's Safe Haven law, which allows babies to be dropped off at a hospital without fear of prosecution, visit www.secretsafe.org.

Remembering Baby Allison

Those who recall the case of Mary Anne might also remember Baby Allison. The full-term Caucasian infant was discovered in late December of 2003 in an Amish burn barrel behind a school on Weaver Road in Strasburg Township. Her throat had been slit and her death was classified as a homicide.

Trooper Jerry Sauers of the Pennsylvania State Police said that investigators scientifically determined the mother was not of the Plain sect, meaning Amish or Old Order Mennonite.

Sauers said the case is cold, but he's still working it hard. He submitted evidence to a DNA lab as recently as winter of 2012.

Anyone with information on the death of Baby Allison is asked to call Trooper Sauers at 717-290-1965.

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