NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A 2-year-old boy found dead in an Oregon creek back in 1963 has finally been identified. It turns out the little boy was from New Mexico. The cold case of ‘Baby Doe’ went unsolved for decades until his body was exhumed in 2008 for DNA. More than a decade later, a sibling match was finally found and with that, a birth certificate and name: Stevie Crawford.
The 1963 death of the 2-year-old boy found in a mountain creek near Ashland, Oregon left investigators stunned for decades. The boy — found by a fisherman on July 11, 1963 — was wrapped in blankets, bound with wire and weighed down, but had no known identity.
However, the cold case got new light in 2008 when Jackson County Sheriff’s Office detectives found the old file while clearing out boxes of archived cases. “This case kind of just fell through the cracks,” said Jim Tattersall, who served as a special investigator for the Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office at the time. “When I brought this file to the detective sergeant, he said, ‘this is not good. We gotta get into this.'”
Tattersall worked with now-retired detective Sgt. Colin Fagan. They received a court order to exhume the body and forensic dentists and other experts — including fellow medical examiner detective Tim Pike — discovered the young boy likely had Down Syndrome. They took DNA and had a reconstruction done. KRQE News 13’s sister station KOIN in Portland, Ore. took a trip down to the area that next year.
“We created the cranial reconstruction which is an image that’s been widely distributed to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,” said Fagan. “The day that we opened that file and saw this three-dimensional image of this child was pretty emotional for us as investigators. We had adopted him as our child and called him the Keene Creek Boy.”
Still, there were no leads. Many of the detectives on the case have since retired.
“He said, ‘we’ll never get this. It’ll be a one shot in a million if this comes up as an identification,'” said Tattersall, who recalled what Det. Pike mentioned during the investigation. “We all thought that was it, we’ll never hear any more about it. We thought we’d probably die before anything came up about this little boy.”
However, late last year, Baby Doe’s DNA got a sibling match through a genealogy site. Recently, they were able to uncover a birth certificate for Stevie Crawford, born Oct. 2, 1960, in Doña Ana County, N.M.
Oddly enough, when Tattersall retired, he moved to Colorado and, eventually, the Rio Rancho area, and says it was astonishing to now know this case has New Mexico roots. Fagan says, 58 years later, while there’s relief to know his name, so many questions remain.
“There will always be questions that remain in my mind. How did he get to this small reservoir in the Cascade Mountains of Southern Oregon in 1963? Under what circumstances did he die?” said Fagan. “He was well-dressed, wrapped in this handmaid quilt, and this wasn’t like a child who had been discarded like the garbage.”
Fagan and Tattersall say none of this would have been possible without the help of so many — from forensic dentists to the North Texas Center for Unidentified Human Remains, and even the original detectives on the case, now gone. Now, they look forward to the day when little Stevie, once Baby Doe, will be buried with his name.
Officials say Stevie’s mother has since died and the name of his father is unknown. According to Fagan, Stevie’s remaining family members have been notified and plan to relocate him to a family plot here in New Mexico.
“He will be buried with his name and connected to his family and his ancestry is now established,” said Fagan. “I feel very good about that.”
“It’s just gratifying to know you’ve worked so hard. Now you can look back on it and say it was all worth it,” said Tattersall. “His mother has passed away and his stepfather has passed away and we’ll never know who his biological father was.”
Detectives say one missing piece of the puzzle is how Stevie died. The State of Oregon has a law where medical records like autopsy reports can be destroyed after 25 years. When Jackson County detectives picked the cold case up, the autopsy was already destroyed.