Chemical Sleuthing Adds Another Clue to Baby Doe Puzzle

Isotopes in hair, teeth of girl found on Boston beach suggest she was transient
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2015 8:00 AM CDT
Chemical Sleuthing Adds Another Clue to Baby Doe Puzzle
In this photo taken, July 31, 2015, a Massachusetts policeman stands at the rocky beach where Baby Doe's body was discovered at Deer Island near Boston.   (Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via AP)

The "first big break" in Boston's Baby Doe case came earlier this month when tests discovered local pollen on the dead girl's clothing and blanket. Now another clue has emerged, thanks to the chemical detective work of a Utah lab: After analysis that compared oxygen isotopes in the girl's hair and teeth to the levels found in drinking water, it appears the girl had moved around the country and may have lived in any of a bunch of New England states and other US regions, Fox 25 News reports. "[This] could explain why there is such a lapse in someone coming forward," a forensic expert says. "She's lived a transient lifestyle." A Massachusetts State Police spokesman tells ABC News that the discovery is "another piece in a large puzzle that we're still assembling" and that more tests could help them determine if the young girl spent time in other countries.

The president of IsoForensics, the Utah lab that's been analyzing the evidence, tells Fox 13 "we've pretty much brought all hands on deck for this one." "It is not ZIP code-specific, but we can tell what regions she was in," she tells Fox News. "Food and water from different regions have different isotopes, and the hair and teeth keep a permanent record of that. You can tell the difference between Texas and Utah, for instance." A senior research scientist at the company adds to Fox 13: "The hair of the little girl will give us a tape recorder of her last year of life and where she moved." In the end, though, authorities say human intervention is needed. "Science can help us find out where she was, but it will take a person to tell us who she was," a DA rep says. "At the heart of this investigation is determining the identity of an innocent child and giving her the dignity of a burial under her true name." (More Massachusetts stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.