Watch CBS News

Potential DNA match found in 2011 "Baby Angel" Winona case, search warrant reveals

Potential DNA match found in "Baby Angel" case
Potential DNA match found in "Baby Angel" case 00:36

WINONA COUNTY, Minn. — Officials in southeastern Minnesota say a potential DNA match has been found in the cold case of a baby found dead in the Mississippi River over 10 years ago. Authorities believe they may have found the baby's biological mother. 

In September 2011, a newborn baby was found deceased in the river in Homer, just south of Winona.

The seven-pound body was wrapped with a green T-shirt, encased in two brown plastic garbage bags and then placed inside a canvas tourist tote. That tote was embroidered with sailboats and the Mexican resort area of Manzanillo. Investigators quickly named the child, "Baby Angel" because several glass angel figurines were found wrapped alongside the body.

The medical examiner determined the infant had several fractures on its skull and was likely born within two days of being discovered, officials said. 

The Winona County Sheriff's Office and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated the death, but so far the identity of the infant or parent has not been confirmed. 

Potential break in the cold case 

According to a search warrant filed last week in Winona County, investigators with the sheriff's office later sought help from Firebird Forensics Group, a nonprofit genetic genealogy company. The nonprofit was also involved in assisting the FBI in a high-profile case in California of Joseph DeAngelo, also known as the "Golden State Killer."

Last March, Firebird Forensics Group alerted the sheriff's office to a "possible lead" in the case: a 42-year-old woman who lives in Winona. 

The search warrant states that an investigator contacted the woman and asked for consent for a DNA buccal swap. The woman said that she wanted to research the company before considering it. Later, the sheriff's office received a letter from a law firm representing the woman, requesting any future contact be made through the law firm. 

An investigator then "conducted a trash pull" of trash that was set out near the woman's residence and collected by the trash collection company. The search warrant document states a discarded female hygiene product was found in the woman's trash and submitted to the BCA laboratory for a forensic comparison to evidence collected in the baby's death investigation. 

In late June, the BCA lab determined that the baby could be the possible biological child of the Winona woman. However, the report also states that "discarded samples are not considered known samples for direct comparison," so additional testing is needed following a known sample submission from the woman. 

The search warrant was filed to get a known DNA sample from the woman. That sample was collected on March 19 and investigators expect the results in the coming weeks. 

"The Winona County Sheriff's Office has followed up on every lead and bit of information we've received over the years. We continue to hope and pray for closure in this case," Sheriff Ron Ganrude said. 

WCCO does not typically identify suspects unless they are formally charged. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.