A retired St. Louis police officer and the baby girl he had once found abandoned, sitting alone on a blanket in an overgrown lot surrounded by dilapidated, rundown mansions on May 26, 1963, met again recently.
“I remember getting a call and I parked. It was a pretty isolated area,” George Leuckel, now 79, told ABC News of that fateful day. “One side of the street was old mansions from the 1800s and half of them had been torn down. Half of it was the veteran’s hospital and the other half was an abandoned, overgrown trash dump. I didn’t hear anything but I walked up into the woods there. There was a circular drive with a park in the middle where the mansions had been. I found her in the brush on a blanket.”
“I saw this baby sitting on the blanket and she wasn’t moving, just looking at me, befuddled as to what’s going on,” he recalled. “She was perfectly dressed like she was ready for Sunday church.”
Leuckel, who now lives in Oakville, Missouri, with his wife, Barbara and their daughter, remembers feeling as though he was being watched that day as he stood there with the baby in his arms—unsure at this point what call had even been placed that led him to the abandoned lot to begin with.
The officer followed the protocol for an abandoned child, taking her to the hospital to have her checked and filling out his police report, recapping all the mysterious details. But there was something different about this baby.
“She hung on to me and we were buddies,” he said. “I was with her most of that evening. And then I had to go back to the station and they called and said they couldn’t find anybody for her. They finally located a foster mother that could take a baby, so I took her up there and that was the last time I saw her.”
The baby girl, who came to be named Antoinette Baker by the state--and now goes by Toni DiPina--grew up, moved to Massachusetts and eventually went to seminary school to become a pastor.