Community Comes Together for Benton County ‘Baby Jane Doe’
It was the morning of March 6th when a Department of Ecology road crew made a chilling discovery along the stretch of Interstate 82 where it meets 182 in South Richland. The crew was clearing litter when they came across a garbage bag.
Inside that garbage bag was the body of an infant. The Benton County Coroner Bill Leach, and his office, confirmed at that time that the infant's body was discovered between Richland and Benton City and that the Benton County Sheriff's Office would conduct an investigation.
The investigation revealed that the infant was 30-weeks-old, female, and stillborn. The events that led to the baby being discarded were not discovered. Soon after members of the community, residents and businesses, came together to make sure that 'Baby Jane Doe' would be laid to rest with dignity.
The Acts of a Few...
My understanding of the events started with a letter shared with me by Benton County Coroner Bill Leach. A family, who wishes to remain anonymous, was moved to act by the circumstances of 'Baby Jane Doe's' death and discovery. In the letter they say they are a family of first responders and they have dealt with death many times.
The emotions they felt regarding the news of 'Baby Jane Doe's' discovery, prompted them to act to make sure she had a dignified end to her story by doing what they could to help provide her with a proper burial. They began to reach out to friends and business in the area to see who would be willing to help with this mission.
On March 22nd the Coroner's Office released 'Baby Jane Doe' to Hillcrest Funeral Home, which donated it's services. Sunset Memorial Gardens then donated a burial plot and Pacific Coast Memorial donated a headstone. Private donors also stepped up to make sure a proper funeral and interment would happen.
A service was held on Saturday April 8th for 'Baby Jane Doe' at Sunset Memorial Gardens. I wanted to share something from the family's letter that struck me, it's something that we all know inside but sometimes need a reminder of as our lives can be consumed by so many details:
"We do not know the details that led to this situation, but we know that there are many others all around who need our help. Hopefully, as we remember this little girl, we can each be more compassionate and a little more willing to reach out and help those around us. We would also like to express our hope that any who find themselves facing a similar decision will reach out to the many wonderful agencies in our community that provide services to women and children. Please remember that you are not alone. There are people who care about you and are willing to help."
The family also thanked all who answered the call and helped in ensuring 'Baby Jane Doe' had a proper funeral and burial. Benton County Coroner Bill Leach echoed that sentiment.