Possible DNA match made for mother of ‘Baby Angel,’ found dead in river near Winona

Boaters a few miles south of Winona found the girl’s body on Sept. 5, 2011, in a canvas bag, wrapped in two airtight plastic bags. The infant, with a roughly cut umbilical cord and a fractured skull, was found wrapped in a green T-shirt that bore a faded image of a slice of toast. Embroidered on the shirt were sailboats and the name of the Mexican city of Manzanillo. Also in the package were a bracelet with an eyelike pendant, two music box angels and an angel bell.

The girl came to be known as Baby Angel, and community members came together to have her buried in Woodlawn Cemetery about six months later with a headstone that includes her incomplete story and these final words, “God bless all the baby angels out there in the world.”

On Thursday, a search warrant affidavit filed in Winona County District Court asked a judge for permission to collect a DNA sample from a 41-year-old woman who could well be Baby Angel’s mother.

According to the affidavit:

The Sheriff’s Office provide DNA from the infant to the nonprofit Firebird Forensics Group in its effort to identify the mother and the baby.

In March 2023, Firebird Forensics provided evidence pointing to the woman, who lives in Winona with a man and two grade school-age girls.

A Sheriff’s Office investigator asked the woman for a DNA sample. She replied that they wanted to research Firebird Forensics before consenting. The investigator asked again a week later, and she said he had yet to do the research and would call back.

Since then, the Sheriff’s Office “received a letter from a law firm that [the woman] had legal representation and requested any future contact be made through the law firm,” the affidavit read.

An sheriff’s investigator turned to another source of the woman’s DNA: the trash outside her home. Among the items seized was a feminine hygiene product.

A state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension lab reported that the testing from the evidence in the trash set out for collection and a blood sample from Baby Angel indicate the infant “could be the possible child” of the woman, the affidavit continued.

However, the report cautioned, “discarded samples are not considered known samples for direct comparisons; therefore, additional testing can be performed following the submission of a known sample from [the woman].”

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