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LAPD Investigates Mystery of Mummified Infants

September 07, 2010  | 


Photo via Flickr.com (improbcat).

Los Angeles Police Department detectives are continuing their death investigation stemming from the discovery of the mummified remains of two long-deceased infants found in a storage trunk last month, according to the department.

The remains were found when residents of an apartment building were cleaning out a community basement. The detectives and coroner's officials examined other items found with the infants inside the steamer trunk that was marked with the initials J.M.B.

Materials in the trunk included two letters and several Christmas cards addressed to a Jean M. Barrie. A letter addressed to a Janet M. Barrie was apparently from Thomas M. Barrie in San Francisco who identified himself in the letter as Ms. Barrie's brother. A second letter addressed to Janet M. Barrie was sent by another family member from Canada. The correspondences to both Jean M. Barrie and Janet M. Barrie were sent to the same address.

Other correspondence from family members addressed to Jean M. Barrie referenced a "Janet" within the body of the letters. Using official Scottish documents and U.S. immigration records, detectives were able to confirm that Janet Mann Barrie and Jean M. Barrie were the same person. Barrie was born on Jan. 15, 1897, and records indicate she emigrated to the U.S. from Scotland during the mid-1920s.

To help detectives and personnel from the coroner's office determine Barrie's connection to the trunk's contents, investigators used photos and negatives from the trunk that depicted a white female wearing items of clothing that were also discovered inside the trunk, such as a purse and white fox boa.

Also included in the investigation was a search for death, marriage and birth certificates. During the search, detectives discovered Barrie's 1964 marriage to George Guy Knapp in Los Angeles after the death of his first wife, Mary Downs Knapp. Up to that time, Barrie had apparently been a homecare nurse for Mrs. Knapp since 1941.

Barrie's marriage to Knapp lasted only four years due to his death in 1968, and she eventually left Los Angeles in the 1980s. Several years later, she died in Canada where family members have been contacted in Canada.

Coroners have performed autopsies of the infants' remains with the assistance of an anthropologist. Both were full-term infants, including one female. The sex of the second infant has not yet been established. Thus far, trauma doesn't appear to be a factor in either infant's death. For now, the causes of death are classified as undetermined, and the case remains open, pending DNA and toxicology results for both infants.

Despite two other clues in the trunk — a copy of "Peter Pan" and a membership certificate to a Big Bear resort called the Peter Pan Woodland Club — investigators have ruled out a connection between Barrie and J.M. Barrie, the author of "Peter Pan," the Los Angeles Times reports.

UPDATE: Using DNA tests, LAPD detectives determined that Jean M. Barrie is the mother of the babies.


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