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Autopsy could offer clues in case of dead babies found in basement

August 19, 2010 |  7:19 am

Officials plan to perform autopsies Thursday on the remains of two babies found wrapped in newspapers from the 1930s and stuffed in a trunk in an L.A. basement.

The L.A. County coroner's office and Los Angeles Police Department are trying to figure out how the babies died and how they got to the basement. The autopsies will involve a pathologist and an anthropologist. Investigators also will try to use DNA testing to determine whether the babies are related and toxicology tests to find out why they died.

Officials with knowledge of the case said one of the babies appeared to be premature — and might have been miscarried or aborted. The other baby appeared to be a newborn.

Detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department are working with few solid leads but some tantalizing clues, including a ticket stub from the closing ceremonies of the 1932 Olympics at the L.A. Coliseum.

The trunk appears to have belonged to a woman named Jean M. Barrie. Inside it were postcards sent to her from far-flung locales such as Korea and South America and a pile of black-and-white photographs that showed a beautiful, fair-haired woman — who may have been Barrie — on vacation and in a wedding gown.

Among Barrie's possessions was a membership certificate for the Peter Pan Woodland Club, an upscale resort in Big Bear that offered guests swimming pools, skating ponds and hunting preserves.

Detectives are examining Barrie's apparent interest in Peter Pan, especially considering she shared the last name and initials with the book's author, James Matthew Barrie, who died in 1937. Records show a Jean Barrie who worked as a nurse and lived about three miles from the Glen-Donald apartment building, which is at the corner of South Lake Street and what is now James M. Wood Boulevard, in 1933.

Authorities said they were classifying the discovery as a "death investigation." They stressed that it was too early to tell if this was a homicide case but vowed to find out what had happened to the babies.

-- Andrew Blankstein and Kate Linthicum

Photo: A page of the Sept. 17, 1937, edition of the Los Angeles Evening Herald and Express was used as wrapping paper for crockery discovered along with the skeletal remains of two babies in a steamer trunk stored in the basement of a building in the 800 block of Lake Street. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times


Photos: Items found with the bodies of the infants

Mysterious woman is at center of probe into remains of babies found in L.A. basement

Photos: Items found with the baby bodies