Something like this has happened before.
The body of a small child is found near Galveston Island. There are no adults around. No immediate apparent cause. A sketched likeness is produced, distributed and spread across the country.
Do you know this child? Can someone help with the identification?
On Oct. 20, a person walking on the beach near the Galveston Seawall found the body of young boy in the dunes. Who he was and how he died haven’t been determined
Ten years ago, on Oct. 29, 2007, a fisherman in Galveston Bay found the body of a young girl inside a plastic container. Investigators first called the girl “Baby Grace.” After a month, her real name, Riley Ann Sawyers, was known to the world.
As the Galveston Police Department works to investigate the latest tragic discovery, officials have released few details. But just because officials haven’t revealed the daily ins and outs of the investigation, it doesn’t mean detectives aren’t working diligently to follow leads, said Galveston County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Michael Barry, the lead investigator on the Baby Grace case.
When Riley’s body was discovered, there wasn’t much to work with in terms of leads, Barry said.
“We had nothing to go on,” he said. “The majority of the time you do have something to go on. But we had a child who was in a container who washed up in the water. We had nothing.”
During the Baby Grace investigation, the sheriff’s office received hundreds of leads. Tips about potential missing children came in from as far away as Portugal, Barry said.
“I can’t tell you the number of call-ins we got,” he said.
The investigation was led mostly by two people, Barry said, but many other people contributed. The investigation was constant for five weeks, he said. Barry isn’t involved in the current investigation of the young boy’s death.
But it’s likely officers are coordinating with the Texas Department of Child Protective Services, which can check with families under its watch to make sure children are safe and accounted for, Barry said.
There also might be forensic evidence that hasn’t been released publicly that police are checking on, Barry said.
“We are not going to divulge a lot of things because only the perpetrator would know,” Barry said. “We release what we can and we feel comfortable with to try to get as much information we can get from the public. But we don’t divulge certain factors.”
By the end of November 2007, the sheriff’s department felt it was exhausting its leads in the Baby Grace case, Barry said. They had even called in a hypnotist in attempt to jar the memories of witnesses who might remember something.
The break in the case came soon after that. Sheryl Sawyers, an Ohio woman, saw a picture of the Baby Grace sketch on the internet. The drawing looked like her granddaughter, Riley, who she had not seen in months.
“She just happened to see the drawing,” Barry said. “The thing that really keyed it was the clothing that Riley was wearing was an outfit the grandmother bought.”
Sawyers called in the tip. Her instincts were confirmed by a DNA test. Riley’s mother, Kimberly Dawn Trenor, and stepfather, Royce Clyde Zeigler, were convicted of capital murder in 2009. Both are serving life sentences.
Barry credited cooperation between investigators and the media for breaking the case.
For Galveston police, it could just be a matter of time. The FBI is reportedly helping with the investigation. Interested people have already sent tips to Galveston that police have dismissed, including a case out of Tennessee in which a missing boy bore a striking resemblance to the child found on the beach.
The boy found in Galveston was about 3 feet tall and weighed about 30 pounds, police said. He had dark hair and brown eyes and was possibly Hispanic, authorities said.
The body was in the early stages of decomposition, Galveston Police Capt. Joshua Schirard said. The body appeared to have been in the water, but police were uncertain whether it had washed ashore or had been placed on the beach where tides might have reached it, Schirard said.
There were no signs of major trauma, such as missing limbs or a gunshot wound. The boy was nude, though investigators did not know whether his clothes had come off in the water because of the Gulf’s current.
Anyone with information concerning this case or the identity of this child please call 409-765-3776 or Crimestoppers at 409-763-TIPS.