20 years later, Virginia Beach cold case unit still searches for mother of baby “Hope”

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Virginia Beach Cold Case Homicide Detective Angela Curran is investigating the 20-year-old death of baby "Hope," a newborn found in a locker at the Lillian Vernon mail order warehouse on Dec. 21, 1996. (Adrienne Mayfield/Southside Daily)
Virginia Beach Cold Case Homicide Detective Angela Curran is investigating the 20-year-old death of baby “Hope,” a newborn found in a locker at the Lillian Vernon mail order warehouse on Dec. 21, 1996. (Adrienne Mayfield/Southside Daily)

For 20 years, detectives haven’t known baby “Hope’s” real name.

But Cold Case Homicide Detective Angela Curran is eager to learn it.

Curran spoke to members of the media at the Virginia Beach Police Department Wednesday about “Hope.”

The newborn was found dead in a plastic bag on Dec. 21, 1996 at the Lillian Vernon mail order warehouse. The bag was hanging in a locker located in an employee-only women’s bathroom.

“Hope” was dead for three to five days before a custodian found her. Her body was wrapped in a small, red golf shirt and police believe she may have been born in the bathroom and left there, Curran said.

Twenty years ago, a custodian found the body of a newborn girl wrapped in a red golf shirt and hanging in a plastic bag in the locker area of the Lillian Vernon mail order warehouse. The baby was never identified, and the case was never solved. (Courtesy of the Virginia Beach Police Department)
Twenty years ago, a custodian found the body of a newborn girl wrapped in a red golf shirt and hanging in a plastic bag in the locker area of the Lillian Vernon mail order warehouse. The baby was never identified, and the case was never solved. (Courtesy of the Virginia Beach Police Department)

“Hope” would have been 20 years old on Wednesday. Even with few substantial leads to go on, Curran hasn’t given up on finding her mother.

“Our goal is to give her a name,” Curran said. “She’d be 20 years old today, and it’s disheartening to know she doesn’t have a name. Her family doesn’t know that she was there.”

Police were never able to determine “Hope’s” race because of decomposition, but they were able to gather a full DNA profile on the baby.

Now they are in the process of searching for the 2,800 regular and seasonal female employees who were working at the warehouse when the baby was found and asking them for DNA samples.

So far, police have gathered and tested DNA samples from 51 of the women. They have ruled out 41 of them as the baby’s mother and are waiting on the results from the other 10.

“We have to locate, interview and hopefully obtain a DNA sample from 2,800 employees,” Curran said. “That, as you can imagine, can be very, very extensive work.”

Although the police department has no plans to stop working the case, Curran said she hopes the infant’s mother will come forward and claim the baby voluntarily.

“If the mother of the child is out there we urge you to come forward. It’s been a long time,” Curran said. “It’s time to come forward and give this baby her name.”

Curran is asking members of the public to submit tips to the Virginia Beach Cold Case Homicide Unit at 757-385-4241 or the Virginia Beach Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.

“No detail is too small,” Curran said. “All tips have been followed up on… and we’re going to continue to follow up on anything that comes in now.”

Watch Curran’s full interview on Southside Daily’s Facebook page.

Mayfield can be reached at adrienne.m@southsidedaily.com.

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Adrienne Mayfield is an award-winning, multi-media journalist hailing from Clermont, Fla. She moved to Lynchburg, Va. on a whim when she was 19, and worked her way to Hampton Roads in 2013. Adrienne is passionate about telling people stories via covering public safety and the judicial system. She isn’t afraid to take a heads-on approach to covering crime, including knocking on doors to get the details police aren’t sharing. Adrienne is a 2014 Old Dominion University graduate who still lives within walking distance of the college. You may see her cruising around Downtown Norfolk on her bike, enjoying a sandwich from Grilled Cheese Bistro or playing fetch with her dog, Greta, at the Colonial Place dog park.