A hoop earring found 13 years ago by utility workers in what was once a forlorn road of Platte County told only part of the horrific tale.
A white plastic Walmart sack was also discovered nearby. In it lay the body of an abandoned newborn boy.
Authorities are not sure how the infant, whom they named “Precious Joe,” died.
“Thirteen years later, the Precious Joe case still haunts me,” said Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd. “It was one of the most difficult crime scenes I have ever visited.”
Zahnd was among the throng of nearby residents, police, homicide investigators and other law enforcement officers who converged on the crime scene on April 26, 2004.
To this day, the white male infant has not been identified. How the baby died and how he ended up near a once vacant field at Tiffany Springs Road and North Hull Avenue is still unknown.
Kansas City Power & Light Co. employees found the body. A portion of the placenta and umbilical cord was recovered, indicating that Precious Joe had not been delivered in a hospital. Authorities suspected that a woman gave birth and discarded the child along the isolated area.
At one point, investigators talked to several women whom they thought had some connection to the child. Those leads went nowhere.
The child was named in part after “Precious Doe,” a little girl who was found decapitated in a vacant lot near 59th Street and Kensington Avenue in Kansas City in April 2001. She was later identified as 3-year-old Erica Green, who moved to Kansas City with her family from Oklahoma.
Authorities later charged her stepfather, Harrell Johnson, who was convicted of first-degree murder and is serving life in prison. Erica’s mother, Michelle Johnson, is serving a 25-year sentence for her role in the child’s death.
The area has changed greatly since 2004. A neighborhood now fills an area that was largely empty then. At one time, a small cross marked where the baby’s body was found, but even that is gone now, Zahnd said.
“Someone knows what happened to this baby, and I am still hopeful that person will come forward,” Zahnd said.
The case remains open and is one of dozens of cold cases being investigated by Kansas City police.
“This child deserves to rest in peace, but that’s unlikely to happen without someone telling police what they know,” Zahnd said. “I hope our community will not forget Precious Joe.”
Circumstances of the crime: A newborn boy, whom authorities dubbed “Precious Joe,” was found abandoned in a Walmart sack on April 26, 2004, in Platte County. His death remains unsolved.
Suspect information: None