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LAPD chief vows 'long-term' investigation of babies found dead in L.A. basement [Updated]

August 18, 2010 |  8:36 am

The remains of two babies, wrapped in 1930s newspaper, were found inside a steamer trunk in a Westlake apartment building.LAPD Chief Charlie Beck promised a vigorous investigation after the remains of two babies believed to have died seven decades ago were found in the basement of an apartment building near MacArthur Park.

The remains were found in a steamer trunk wrapped in Los Angeles Times newspapers from the 1930s. A ticket to the 1932 Olympics and other items were found nearby.

"We'll put detectives on this case for the long term," Beck told The Times. "We'll try to reconstruct the circumstances based on what the coroner tells us, based on the history of the residence and based on science. We have many more tools and technology available to us than before, which may allow for identification of the victims and closure to any family members."

Authorities said they are classifying the discovery as a "death investigation" because it's unclear how and under what circumstances the babies got to the location. Sources stressed it's far too early to tell whether this is a homicide case.

Investigators with the LAPD's juvenile division have gathered evidence from the scene as they try to reconstruct the scene and build a historical record to help solve the mystery.

[Updated at 8:41 a.m.: Sources told The Times that both babies appear to have been newborns and that one might have been premature. The remains were found inside some type of medical bags, wrapped in the papers.]

Ed Winter, assistant chief of the Los Angeles County coroner's office, said Wednesday that medical examiners also were trying "to connect the dots."

"We'll be going step by step on this," Winter said. "This is a case of where did they come from, why were they there?" 

The remains were found Tuesday night when workers were cleaning out the basement of the apartment on the 800 block of Lake Street. In the 1930s, the area was considered one of the more fashionable parts of town. A source said the remains appeared to be mummified.

--Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Scene outside apartment. KTLA News.