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Casket switch behind discovery of infant's partial remains

Written by Kristen De Groot/Associated Press | Jul 6, 2017 3:14 PM
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(Philadelphia) -- Police have solved part of the mystery of the child's casket found on a Philadelphia sidewalk: A funeral home worker dumped it there, apparently unaware it contained some of the remains of an infant who had been transferred to another coffin for a funeral in New Jersey.

Investigators initially thought the casket found Monday had been dug up from a nearby cemetery, but an investigation revealed none had any disturbed graves.

Then on Tuesday, a New Jersey funeral home director reached out to Philadelphia police after one of its employees admitted what happened. Police said it wasn't clear why the worker left the small white casket behind in a black trash bag.

Inside the casket was a garbage bag containing the internal organs of a 3- to 4-month-old baby.

"It was shocking to say the least," Capt. Malachi Jones said Thursday. "It begs the question: Where is the baby?"

The child's funeral was a week ago, and it turns out, there was an explanation for what appeared to have happened.

Police were told that the latch on the coffin found in Philadelphia had broken. As a result, funeral home workers transferred the baby's body to a new casket, and the broken one was placed in a work car.

It wasn't clear, however, why the organs -- removed as part of an autopsy -- were left in the broken casket.

Police have been in touch with the child's family, and they hope to reunite the organs with the baby's body. However, because the child has already been buried, the remains would have to be exhumed in order to do so, Jones said.

"The family is quite upset," he said.

Police did not identify the funeral home.

No charges have been filed but the investigation is continuing.

An earlier story appears below.

(Philadelphia) -- A child-sized casket containing the embalmed internal organs of an infant that was found on a Philadelphia sidewalk was dumped there by a New Jersey funeral home worker, police said Thursday.

Police got a call Monday night that a small white casket had been found in a black trash bag, not far from several cemeteries. Inside, officers found no body but a black garbage bag with the internal organs belonging to a 3- to 4-month-old baby.

"It was shocking to say the least," Capt. Malachi Jones said. "It begs the question: Where is the baby?"

Initially, police thought the casket had been dug up from one of the nearby cemeteries, but an investigation revealed none had any disturbed graves.

"It was basically a whodunit," Jones said.

On Tuesday, the New Jersey funeral home director reached out to Philadelphia police and said an employee had admitted to dumping the casket, saying he had no idea there were any remains inside.

The child's funeral was last Thursday, and just before the service, the latch on the coffin broke, Jones said. Funeral home workers transferred the child's body to a new casket, and the broken one was placed in a work car, he said. It's not clear why the organs -- which were removed as part of an autopsy --were left in the broken casket.

Police have been in touch with the child's family, and they hope to reunite the organs with the baby's body. However, the child has already been buried, so the remains would have to be exhumed in order to bury the organs with the baby, Jones said.

"The family is quite upset," he said.

It's unclear why the employee dumped the casket, and why he did it in Philadelphia. The name of the funeral home hasn't been released.

No charges have been filed, but the investigation is continuing.

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