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Community joins together for Baby John Doe grave marker

Donations more than enough to pay for marker in Auburn Cemetery
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Indigent burial process has several steps

 

When someone dies and no one immediately claims or identifies the body, Placer County has a series of procedures that click into place.

Dennis Watt, chief deputy coroner, said each case is different, and depending on circumstances, can lead to cremation or a burial in an unmarked grave.

n If someone dies in a hospital, social workers will attempt to locate relatives. But if they can’t, the case is turned over to the Placer County Public Administrator. That office will launch a continued search for family or an estate.

n If there is an estate, then the public administrator will handle the burial, using funds from that source.

n If there is no estate on an identified body, then the public administrator will contact the coroner. The coroner will mount its own search over 30 days, looking for next of kin. After that time, if the coroner has identified the deceased, then it will be cremated by contract with a local crematorium at a cost of $695.

n If there is no estate, the deceased’s family can put in a funding request with the public administrator and, if granted, ashes can be turned over to the family.

n If no family is identified for an identified body, the cremains are stored.

n If a person remains unidentified with no family found, the county has a full burial in an unmarked but recorded grave, Watt said.

 That was the case with Baby John Doe – until members of the community came forward to pay for a marker.

Source: Placer County Coroner’s Office          

 

In a short, touching service that brought together law enforcement and area residents who had spontaneously launched a successful drive for a grave marker, Baby John Doe’s short, tragic life was remembered Tuesday at the Auburn Cemetery.

About a dozen members of the public who contributed to the Baby John Doe grave marker gathered in the children’s area of the cemetery to pray and place flowers on the freshly laid granite marker.

The body of a child with no name and no known past was buried in late November without a marker but a Placer County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy spokesman said several people came forward afterward to ensure the baby would not be forgotten.

 The baby’s body was discovered at a roadside last June inside a plastic trash bag. Lt. Mark Reed of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said after the ceremony that detectives continue to follow up on leads but “unfortunately there’s not much to go on.”

Makenzie Montgomery placed a plush pony and an angel on the boy’s grave – the angel once a gift from her great-grandma.

“It’s just sad he would be left,” Montgomery said.

Norma Harris was a donor after learning that a patch of bare turf covered the burial plot in a row of markers for other children.

“I felt he shouldn’t be buried without a marker,” Harris said. “He was a precious gift. Let’s just hope things like this don’t happen too often.”

For law enforcement and chaplaincy members, the show of community resolve was a heartening reminder of the good in people.

“It really helps us when we see the public step up and show they care,” Reed said. “A lot of times we see the ugly side of society.”

Chaplain Jim Milne’s prayer thanked the donors for their collective effort to provide a grave marker and expressed the hope that some day, justice “for this little one” would occur.

Senior Chaplain John Akers said donations were more than enough to cover headstone costs and extras that included a picture and a slot to hold flowers. Costs were estimated at $450 to $500.

Paul Ruhkala, of longtime Rocklin monument maker Ruhkala Monument Co., said that his business stepped up with a stone and engraving work because it was the right thing to do.

“People need to step up," Ruhkala said. “This child didn’t have anybody to help him.”

 

Indigent burial process has several steps

 

When someone dies and no one immediately claims or identifies the body, Placer County has a series of procedures that click into place.

Dennis Watt, chief deputy coroner, said each case is different, and depending on circumstances, can lead to cremation or a burial in an unmarked grave.

n If someone dies in a hospital, social workers will attempt to locate relatives. But if they can’t, the case is turned over to the Placer County Public Administrator. That office will launch a continued search for family or an estate.

n If there is an estate, then the public administrator will handle the burial, using funds from that source.

n If there is no estate on an identified body, then the public administrator will contact the coroner. The coroner will mount its own search over 30 days, looking for next of kin. After that time, if the coroner has identified the deceased, then it will be cremated by contract with a local crematorium at a cost of $695.

n If there is no estate, the deceased’s family can put in a funding request with the public administrator and, if granted, ashes can be turned over to the family.

n If no family is identified for an identified body, the cremains are stored.

n If a person remains unidentified with no family found, the county has a full burial in an unmarked but recorded grave, Watt said.

 That was the case with Baby John Doe – until members of the community came forward to pay for a marker.

Source: Placer County Coroner’s Office