Forty-seven years after an unidentified toddler was first laid to rest in an unmarked grave at Hillcrest Memorial Park, he was returned, still unknown, but not forgotten.

Forty-seven years after an unidentified toddler was first laid to rest in an unmarked grave at Hillcrest Memorial Park, he was returned, still unknown, but not forgotten.

The 2-year-old's remains were placed in a tiny white casket, just 1 foot wide by 2 feet long. His black granite marker bears the inscription, "Unknown Baby Boy 1961 — 1963."

"We feel we've done all we can," said Jackson County Deputy Medical Examiner Tim Pike. "We got a lot of information. And 10 to 20 years from now, maybe that will help others."

In summer 2008, a team of Jackson County Sheriff's Department investigators, intrigued by a decades-old unsolved case of a child who was found in a weighted bundle of blankets and wire in Keene Creek Reservoir, stepped in to look for answers.

Checking old cases stored deep in the county archives to see whether any still needed follow-up, volunteer special investigator Jim Tattersall found the questions.

On July 11, 1963, a fisherman pulled what he thought was a blanket roll out of the mountain reservoir near Ashland and found the body of a boy about 2 years old wrapped inside along with two iron assayer's molds, apparently intended to weigh the body down.

The discovery launched a flurry of media stories and an intense investigation involving Oregon State Police and the FBI.

Officers tried to track down where the boy's clothing had been purchased. He wore a red, long-sleeved pullover shirt with thin white stripes, gray corduroy trousers with an elastic waist and a buckle for size adjustments, and a cloth diaper fastened with blue diaper pins and covered with plastic pants.

They attempted to match his footprints with those taken of newborns at local hospitals about the time he could have been born.

Pages of tips, reports, letters and telegrams to neighboring jurisdictions and photographs stacked up, showing the efforts, but no results, Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan said.

Eventually, the case was put aside, stuck in storage until Tattersall found it.

Haunted by the way it simply stopped, Tattersall brought it up to Fagan and Pike.

The team hoped that new technology and old memories might help them identify the child and perhaps even determine what happened to him.

"We were hoping it would stir an emotion or a memory," Pike said.

They exhumed the body so they could do DNA testing and facial reconstruction from the skull. And they shared the story with the public, presenting old leads again and asking for new clues.

One dead-end in the original case — the concerns of Mrs. Cecil Johnson on Route 1 in Central Point who had cared for a foster child matching the found boy's description — generated new information this time around.

The daughters of Cecil and Beulah Johnson came forward with details about the foster child, named Cecil Roy Rapp but called "PeeWee," who arrived at the Johnsons' home shortly after his birth to a developmentally disabled teen from Rogue River at Fairview Home, a state institution in Salem. His sudden departure in early 1963 had saddened the family, who then feared the worst after the discovery in the reservoir.

However, when they recounted the story to investigators and the newspaper in 2008, another family recognized PeeWee. He had lived in several foster homes in Ashland and Talent before settling in at age 5 with Dolores and Kenneth Schwalb on Orchard Home Drive. The Schwalbs adopted him at 13 and he took his adoptive father's middle name, too, becoming Cecil Andrew Schwalb and still living in Medford.

As an adult, he tracked down his birth family and reunited with them, but he still knew little of his early life until the connection emerged through the ultimately unrelated case of the Keene Creek boy.

"It was nice to see," Pike said, noting that investigators usually have to deliver news of loss to families, not positive news of new connections.

The team tracked down other people mentioned in the original case, and in each instance trails led away from the reservoir and to adulthood for the children in question. Media attention also brought new tips that ultimately didn't pan out.

"We cleared up some mysteries," said Tattersall. "We were able to get some people back together."

The forensic work that wasn't available in the 1960s uncovered a few new details, but didn't come up with an identity.

Reports by Jeanne McLaughlin, a forensic anthropologist from Lane County, and Hal Berg, a Medford dentist, concluded that the boy was nearly 2 at the time of his death and that he likely had Down syndrome, Pike said.

Forensic artists at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created a series of detailed images of what the boy's face might have looked like. The pictures were released in the paper and taken to events in the Greensprings area, but no one recognized the child, Pike said.

DNA samples from the body were sent to the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas, a massive undertaking funded in part by the National Institute of Justice, that works to match DNA from relatives of missing people and from unidentified remains. The boy's DNA is now part of the database and will be part of routine searches for relatives, Pike explained.

"We have nothing to come any closer to his identity, but with that DNA maybe future technology will come up with something," he said, adding there was little cost incurred in the investigation as most of the labor and services were donated.

Pike and the rest of the team said the cold case has taught them about handling old evidence, using new technology, questioning standard practices and finding resources such as dentists and forensic experts who are willing to volunteer in missing-person cases.

"There were learning points," Pike said.

However, he acknowledged, "There are things we'll never know," including how the boy died.

"At the end of the day, when I look back on it, I'm glad we did it," Pike said.

With no new clues, investigators decided now was the time to honor the child with a respectful reburial on Thursday. Hillcrest Memorial Park donated a new casket and headstone and covered all burial expenses.

"We're still going to keep looking," said Tattersall. "But he's going back to being a cold case again."

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 541-776-4485, or e-mail

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail