Baby Left By Pond Is Given Funeral

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The cream-colored casket was just 18 inches long. The newborn inside was discovered in Riverdale Park earlier this year, part of her umbilical chord still attached.

Prince George's Police do not know who her mother is or why the baby was left in a plastic bag in a sediment pond in February. Detectives picked a name for her, Maria Grace Daniels, and they gave her a proper burial yesterday in the chilly afternoon rain.

About 25 people, mostly police officers, showed up at the grave site at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton to honor Maria's brief life. As raindrops fell from the gray sky, several people cried.

The tiny casket was flanked on the left by a small bouquet of flowers and on the right by a stuffed Easter bunny.

"Usually at this point in the funeral we ask for remarks from her family," said police Chaplain Steve Rhoads, who performed the ceremony. "Today, you are her family."

The homicide unit and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89 raised about $650 and asked the funeral home and others to donate goods and services to hold the funeral. They are hoping to raise more funds to place a headstone at Maria's grave.

Maria lived for several hours or possibly a couple of days, said Kyle Scully, lead homicide detective on the case. She was found Feb. 17 in the 5500 block of Haig Road next to a pond that flows into an artery of the Anacostia River.

Police believe she was full-term, weighing 7 pounds, 4 ounces.

Scully said there are no promising leads on the case. "We have nothing," he said.

The cause of death is still undetermined, said homicide Detective Kelly Rogers, who helped arrange the funeral.

Scully said he hopes Maria's family will come forward, adding that the mother would not necessarily be prosecuted if she contacted police.

"We want to reunite the child with the family, even in death," Scully said. "We want to help with any issues the mother may have."

Scully said the funeral was possible because of donations from Resurrection Cemetery, Gasch's Funeral Home and Marche Florist.

Rhoads spoke briefly about Maria, saying that she was a "sweet, precious, innocent" child and that no one at the funeral was able to see her alive.

"However pointless this life may seem, it is important to all of you," he said. "This life had value, however short it was."

Then, police Cpl. Steve Campbell played "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.

Fliers were passed out at the end of the brief service. In black lettering, they read, "We are all sure that Baby Maria would have contributed to society and been a fine citizen."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company