Details Emerge About Remains Found in Trunk

The question at the center of this mystery: Who is Jean M. Barrie?

Telemundo San Antonio

Forensic exams, autopsy results and other tests were  pending Friday on remains of two mummified babies found in a  Depression-era trunk in a Los Angeles apartment building basement, but more clues  emerged about the apparent owner of the trunk.

Each step in the case takes investigators a bit closer to understanding  what happened eight decades ago.

The babies' remains were discovered about 5 p.m. Tuesday in a  former ballroom basement area of the Glen-Donald apartment building, in the 800  block of South Lake Street, according to Los Angeles police. The Los Angeles County Department of Coroner began its work Thursday to  identify the origin of the remains, the parent or parents, and possible genetic  links. None of the exams or tests were complete as of Friday morning, a coroner's investigator told City News Service.

One of the biggest challenges will be to determine whether a crime was  committed, police sources told the Los Angeles Times.

Detectives from the LAPD juvenile division's abused child section hope  medical tests can determine whether the babies were stillborn, aborted or  subjected to trauma, The Times reported. While coroner's investigators were  at work Thursday, Los Angeles police detectives sifted through evidence that  continued revealing details of a distant past.

Inside the steamer trunk where the baby remains were discovered, police  found a fur wrap, a flapper dress, a beaded purse, and a bundle of blank  medical test forms, The Times reported.

Detectives said the medical forms point in the direction of the woman  named Jean M. Barrie, who lived in the area and may have worked as a nurse, The Times  reported.

She was born in San Francisco in 1916. Detectives said they found  postcards in the trunk addressed to a Jean M. Barrie from a brother, Thomas, in  San Francisco, The Times reported.

Detectives are considering other leads, including the possibility the  trunk may have belonged to a different Jean M. Barrie, a well-known storyteller  and performer at the time, The Times reported. She apparently lived in the Midwest and on the East Coast, and she was  related of James M. Barrie, the Scottish author of the children's book "Peter  Pan."

Clues in the trunk that point in her direction include an old edition of "Peter Pan," and a certificate of membership to the Peter Pan Woodland  Club, a resort that predated Big Bear City in the San Bernardino Mountains and  burned down in the 1940s.

But it's unclear whether this other Barrie ever lived in Los Angeles,  The Times reported.

An ad in a 1918 edition of Lyceum Magazine shows the stern-faced woman  in a lace and velvet dress. The ad bills her as a "Reader of Plays and  Miscellaneous Programs."

The women who made the grim discovery of the mummified remains, building  manager Gloria Gomez and her friend Yiming Xing, told The Times they found  books, postcards, a crystal bowl and two doctor's bags inside the trunk.

Inside each bag was the body of a baby, each body in a blanket, and  wrapped in a faded, 1930s-era newspaper, The Times reported.

Xing, who discovered the first body, said Wednesday it appeared to be a  fetus.

"It looked like a baby, but it didn't have any shape to it," she told  The Times. Xing, a USC geneticist, said she believed the baby was miscarried or  possibly aborted.

John Medford, a resident at the building, told The Times he thinks the  bodies could be linked to illegal abortions.

"It was kept secret for 74 years and my theory is that this rolls back  the cover on a cruel, tragic and unjust time in America for women," Medford  told The Times. "Ending pregnancies this way would have been commonplace. This  was business as usual in all social strata."

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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