I’m currently taking forensics and investigation courses online. One of the courses is about cold cases and missing persons, and one of the resources I came across was The Doe Network. It’s a grassroots, donation-funded database of missing persons and unidentified homicide victims. It’s quite prolific. For instance, it has missing persons reports in its archive dating back to the 1800s.
I’m actually planning to volunteer for them as a researcher. For those who are familiar with my work as a journalist, you’re probably aware that I’ve been working on a homicide case that happened here near Houston. To this day, the case is still unsolved. With that in mind, I searched through the database, which is organized by location, pertaining to cases in Texas.
One of the cases that struck me was that of a newborn who was left for dead in the middle of nowhere, with her umbilical cord still attached.
The name given to her was Baby Hope Medina, referring to Medina County, where her body was found. The name Baby Hope was originally the nickname of Anjelica Castillo, a four-year old girl from New York who was raped and murdered in 1991. Her body was not identified until 2013. Her cousin was later charged for her rape and murder.
The brief details about Baby Hope Medina’s death marinated in my mind. It was estimated that she could have died within a 24-hour period due to exposure. She was on Earth for 1 day, and then she was gone.
The way she died was too cruel. How can someone do this to a newborn baby? I start to feel bad for my dogs when they bark from my backyard when they get cold. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to oppress your basic instincts as a human being, as the parent of that child, to drive away and leave your crying baby in a cloud of dust.
Armed with only a vague description of where her body was found, I pinpointed the road on Google Maps.
It’s a skinny backroad–the kinds that cut through Texas like a million capillaries–and so I was surprised to find that it had a Street View. I “drove” down the road, looking for a possible memorial, not expecting to find one.
At first, I saw something to the left, within the brush, and realized it was just trash. I went up a little further, not even sure if I was going the right way. Suddenly, I saw it. It was the memorial, with flowers and a makeshift cross.
Now, I’m not sure if this truly is a memorial for Baby Hope Medina, or if another unfortunate soul met their end on that same dirt road, but I like to think it is.
I like to think that someone out there cares about her; that someone still takes the time to bring fresh flowers to her memorial site even after over a decade since her body was found; that someone honors the memory of a baby they didn’t even know personally.
I wonder if the mother has ever visited that memorial. I wonder if she’s the one who created that memorial out of guilt.
The tragic but somewhat relieving consequence of her death is that no one ever had the pleasure of seeing this infant, or got to see her grow up and reach her full potential as a human being on this planet, and yet her memory is treasured and honored by those touched by her brief life.
It’s strange. This post was supposed to be about Google Maps and how technology can be such a valuable, cost-free tool for researchers like myself. I was going to talk about how a Street View screenshot of a memorial more than 230 miles from where I live can provoke an emotional response–the Internet as a kind of spider web that connects past and present, the dead and the living.
But all of that geeky shit isn’t so important or relevant anymore. I simply had the urge, the need, to type her name; a name given to her because her mother never gave her one.