At first, Chris Lemieux thought it was a doll floating in the ocean.
As WPTV News reports, the firefighter from Boynton Beach, Florida was fishing with two friends when he made a tragic discovery. It was Friday afternoon, and the three men were in a boat about 100 feet off the Florida coast when one of the trio mentioned seeing a doll in the water.
We are seeking the community’s assistance to identify this baby found Friday, June 1st on the ocean side of the Boynton Beach Inlet. The female infant was no more than 14 days old. Anyone with information please call Det. Hamilton at (561)688-4155 or email firstname.lastname@example.org pic.twitter.com/RxcSAJznBp
— PBSO (@PBCountySheriff) June 4, 2018
But Lemieux had a bad feeling about it. He circled around and quickly confirmed his suspicions. It wasn’t a doll. It was the naked body of a newborn baby girl. He told the Palm Beach Post that when they found the child, it was too late:
“It’s very unfortunate to think that somebody would actually do something like that to a baby. We couldn’t have done anything to help the baby. It was beyond help.”
The baby was no more than 14 days old, and investigators are still unsure whether she is Hispanic, black, multiracial, or Caucasian. Capt. Steven Stravelli of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office told News4Jax that they are performing DNA testing to find out:
“We have actually tried our best to identify the nationality of the child, but we cannot rule out anyone.”
Investigators have not yet determined why the infant was in the water nor revealed the cause of death. Stravelli would not divulge whether there were indications that the baby had been abused, though he did say she was of healthy weight.
How the child ended up in the water is another mystery. It is possible that she was placed there from a boat, dropped from a nearby bridge, or left in the water by someone wading in at the shore. Stravelli added that the area is a well-known landing spot for boats transporting persons illegally from Haiti and Cuba. The girl may have fallen from one of those boats.
Lemieux told the Post that the discovery was so disturbing that he took one of the men on the boat, an 18-year-old studying to be a paramedic, aside to talk about it:
“[I said], ‘You’re probably going to see stuff like this in the future. It’s part of the career as a firefighter/paramedic that we run into stuff like that.’ He understood what I was saying. I made sure he was OK. PTSD-type stuff is big in the fire service.”
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has released a sketch of what they believe the newborn looked like at birth. They are asking anyone with information about the child to contact them at 561-688-3400. The Florida Department of Children and Families is also investigating and gathering tips via their abuse hotline at 1-800-962-2873.
Strivelli said they are hoping to find the parents to help shed light on the mystery. He told the Post that while they are still in “the ‘theories’ phase,” when it comes to how the baby ended up in the ocean, “a baby being in the water is foul play as far as I’m concerned.” He added:
“It’s gut-wrenching and we hate seeing it, and we really, desperately want to get to the bottom of what happened.”