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Investigators identify boy whose body was found in 1963

A boy whose body was discovered in a reservoir east of Ashland in 1963 has been identified. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children facial reconstruction
Two-year-old boy was found underwater in Jackson County

On a summer evening in 1963, a fisherman snagged his hook on the body of a 2-year-old boy in Keene Creek Reservoir east of Ashland.

The boy was wrapped in a blanket and homemade quilt, bound with wire and weighted down with iron molds to keep his body hidden underwater.

Investigators with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office never gave up on trying to identify the boy ― and they now know his name thanks to advances in technology that allow people to be tracked through their relatives’ DNA.

“Baby Doe” is actually Stevie Crawford, a boy born on Oct. 2, 1960, in New Mexico.

Jim Tattersall, formerly a special investigator with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and a retired law enforcement officer, was surprised to learn of the identification.

“I thought it was fantastic. I never thought it would happen in my lifetime,” said Tattersall, now 81.

When the boy’s body was first discovered, investigators did extensive research, including comparing his footprints to more than 100 records of ink footprints of infants born at local hospitals, said Colin Fagan, who retired recently and was a sergeant detective with the sheriff’s office.

“They did one hell of an investigation back then, but they didn’t have the resources we have now,” Tattersall said.

Long before the internet, investigators sent letters to surrounding counties describing the found boy in an effort to match him with missing persons cases, Fagan said.

When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, the investigation into the Keene Creek boy appeared to stop, Fagan said.

In 2007, Fagan asked Tattersall to look through a dozen boxes of old paper files for any open murder cases, missing person cases or unidentified remains cases. Tattersall was retired from his law enforcement career, but serving as a volunteer with the sheriff’s office at the time.

The files had survived a fire in the basement of a courthouse where the sheriff’s office used to be housed.

“During his examination, he found a file from 1963 that he brought to me and said, ‘Sergeant, I think you need to read this and tell me what you think,’” Fagan recalled. It was the file for the boy found in Keene Creek Reservoir.

In August 2008, the boy’s tiny body was exhumed from Hillcrest Memorial Park in Medford and a DNA sample was taken. The sample returned no matches in the Combined DNA Index System.

Investigators took the boy’s skull to local dentists Dr. Hal Borg and Dr. Gregory Pearson, who had a new 360-degree X-ray machine. Information from the x-rays was sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to create an image of the boy as he might have appeared while alive.

“It was quite emotional for us as the investigative team,” Fagan said. “That file came to us digitally attached in an email. I brought the people that were involved in the investigation into my office and we opened it ― and that was the first time that we saw this little boy we had adopted as the ‘Keene Creek Boy.’ That’s what we called him.”

Investigators learned from the dentists that the boy’s features were consistent with Down syndrome, providing another clue in the case, Fagan said.

A forensic odontologist compared the boy’s dental records to a database but found no matches.

The investigators still didn’t have a name.

“Our objective was to bury him properly and mark his headstone with his name and reunite him with any family or ancestry that we could identify. And if nothing else, we could at least set the case up for whatever the future might bring,” Fagan said.

The boy was reburied in a white casket 1 foot wide and 2 feet long. His grave marker bore the words “Unknown Baby Boy 1961 - 1963.”

In the intervening years, the popularity of home DNA tests exploded, creating a web of records showing the relationships among people interested in learning more about their families and ancestry.

In December 2020, the sheriff’s office received a tip via Facebook, reinvigorating the case. Current Sheriff Nathan Sickler tasked Det. Christian Adams, a deputy medical examiner in the sheriff’s office, with continuing the investigation.

Adams, working with Dr. Nici Vance from the Oregon State Police Human Identification Program, submitted a biological sample for genealogical DNA testing.

Genetic genealogist CeCe Moore, a consultant for TV shows like “Finding Your Roots,” did a search of DNA files through the online service GEDmatch, which compares DNA results from different testing companies.

Most famously, GEDmatch was used to track relatives and identify the Golden State Killer, Joseph James DeAngelo, a serial killer and rapist who terrorized California in the 1970s and 1980s.

Moore found two potential siblings for the unidentified boy found at the Keene Creek Reservoir. An interview with a maternal half-brother in Ohio revealed he had a young sibling with Down syndrome who was born in New Mexico but disappeared, the sheriff’s office said.

Further investigation uncovered a birth certificate for Stevie Crawford, born Oct. 2, 1960, in New Mexico.

Fagan said Stevie Crawford's mother was reported to have traveled widely, and she didn’t always make the best decisions.

"The half-brother said, at one point, she left and then returned and said, ‘We won’t be worrying about Stevie anymore,’ ― and then it was the thing that was never discussed,“ Fagan said.

Fagan said the mother died many years ago.

He said as investigators have been working the case, community members have been bringing toys and flowers to the little boy’s grave in the Garden of Angels section of Hillcrest Memorial Park for years.

“I’m a father of two sons and I would want my little boy to be cared for with the kind of care this community has provided,” Fagan said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.