Unsolved Cases: 'Baby Joseph' Froze to Death in 1996

The newborn infant was left near a Hazelwood church—his mother never found.

Easter Sunday is the day Christians observe Christ's triumph over death and the renewal of life for all beings.

That day of celebration turned dark just before Easter services April 7, 1996 at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hazelwood. Two church members discovered the body of a newborn infant in an alley between the church and the adjacent property at Mansion Street and Gate Lodge Way.

The baby boy seemed to have been swaddled in a pink towel but rolled out of it at some point during the chilly April night when the thermometer registered a low of 26 degrees. He was unclothed, next to the towel, when they discovered him frozen to death.

Dr. Cyril Wecht, then Allegheny County coroner, ruled that the child died of "cold exposure due to neglect of the newborn," the Post-Gazette reported. His death was ruled a homicide.

More than 175 people attended a memorial service held at the church on April 14, one week after his tiny body was found.

The Allegheny County Morgue kept him for almost 3 months, with the hope someone would come forward to claim him. No one did.

But the baby didn't go to his grave without a caring family. The residents of Hazelwood "adopted" him, naming him "Baby Joseph" to honor the husband of Jesus' mother. Hazelwood funeral director Mark V. Sauvageot donated a tiny cream-and-black casket.

An anonymous woman clothed him with a white Christening gown, cap, socks and booties, according to the Pennsylvania Missing Persons website. Residents donated a teddy bear, a rattle, a pink afghan and a large white Easter bunny with a blue bow—and some women wrote poems.

They even donated a book to the local library, dedicated in the name that the citizens of Hazelwood had given him.

Baby Joseph was buried at Homewood Cemetery on June 28, 1996. The cemetery donated the grave site near at the edge of a level plot where 50 other babies who died before him who are buried.

Had he lived, Baby Joseph would be 16 today.

If you have any information that could lead to the identity of Baby Joseph, contact the Pittsburgh Police Department Homicide Division at 412-323-7161.

For more information about this and other missing and unidentified person cases, visit Pennsylvania Missing PersonsNamUs or the Doe Network.


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