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Martin County exhumations take longer than hoped

Posted at 4:15 AM, Jan 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-12 09:00:54-05

The Martin County Sheriff's Office will continue to exhume the bodies of three infants from a Stuart cemetery Tuesday morning.

Detectives are working to identify the infants, buried in unmarked graves at Fernhill Memorial Gardens and Mausoleum.

They are also working to determine which body is that of a child known as "Baby Moses" to investigators.

Baby Moses' body was found floating in the St. Lucie River in 1983. Investigators said he drowned the same day he was born.

Investigators are exhuming the bodies hoping to use DNA technology to identify the baby. The technology was not available in 1983 when the baby died.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder says the exhumations were expected to last one day, but anthropologists have come across unexpected obstacles as they dig into the grave sites.

"We're finding pieces of wood, coffin (and) nails. That slows us down because when we see debris in a hole, we don't know for sure if that is debris from our remains that we're looking for or if it is from somewhere else," Snyder said.

Anthropologists have to work meticulously and slowly with every inch of soil, careful not to destroy any potential evidence.

Monday, anthropologists dug about three feet deep in each grave site. They have not found remains of the bodies.

"Two of the sites do seem to indicate that we're going to find remains tomorrow, though that's not certain. The third site is just empty right now," Snyder said.

For now, the best discovery has been a discoloration of some of the soil. "The dirt has changed colors. We can see the outline of a rectangle," Snyder said.

The discoloration could come from bodily fluids seeping into the soil from an infant's body.

"If the body and the bones are completely disintegrated, there is a chance that we can find the soil that had leaching and be able to determine DNA from that," Snyder said.
 
The rectangle could also be the first sign of a coffin or box containing the infant remains.

Detectives hope to match DNA from the soil or potential remains to Baby Moses' parents. Detectives believe they are the people who would hold the answer as to why Baby Moses' life was cut short.

"This child was thrown into the water carelessly, disposed of, and died the day he was born. He never got to tell his story."

Deputies will be guarding the exhumation sites overnight.

Anthropologists and investigators will resume working Tuesday morning around 7 a.m.

If remains of the infants are found, anthropologists will take them to a lab to begin examining.