One year ago tomorrow, two children playing near a creek bed behind townhouses in Sugarland Run found the body of a newborn girl wrapped in a towel. Loudoun County sheriff's investigators, who named her Baby Hope, are still searching for the girl's mother and trying to publicize a law aimed at preventing similar deaths.
On Thursday, investigators went to Sterling Cemetery to place flowers on Baby Hope's grave, next to a tombstone engraved with "You're Loved By So Very Many" that was donated this summer by Leesburg Monument Co.
"We hope the anniversary will spark someone's memory about someone who may have left the baby in Sugarland Run," said Kraig Troxell, spokesman for the Sheriff's Office. In the weeks after the discovery, investigators went door-to-door in the area and distributed fliers to motorists. "The case has remained active, and we have continued to search for the mother," Troxell said.
Authorities said Baby Hope was born alive before being abandoned behind the 200 block of North Cottage Road. Children playing in a wooded area over the Labor Day weekend found the body wrapped in a white Martha Stewart Everyday towel. Troxell said the umbilical cord was still attached, indicating she had probably been born that day.
The baby was found a month after Virginia's "safe haven" law had gone into effect. The law allows a parent to leave a newborn up to 14 days old at a hospital with 24-hour emergency services or at a 24-hour rescue squad with EMS providers without fear of prosecution.
"We want to get the message out," Troxell said. "The law was put into effect to help scared mothers who feel desperate or abandoned."
Virginia's Department of Social Services has not received reports of children being left under the new law, said spokesman Charles Ingram.
"I think it really hasn't made a big impact in Virginia because there hasn't been much publicity about it," said Laurie Warhol of Loudoun child protective services. "I don't think it's been well advertised."
In the weeks after her discovery, Baby Hope was showered with gifts no one wants a baby to receive: a tiny casket, a burial plot, a dress and a blanket. About 50 mourners attended her funeral in September. Warhol said Baby Hope was the only such case she had heard of in Loudoun.
"If one child dies, that is one child too many," she said. "It is a serious problem that it would happen at all."
Anyone with information on Baby Hope's mother can contact the Sheriff's Office at 703-777-0475 or anonymously through Crime Solvers at 703-777-1919 or 877-777-1931.