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UNIDENTIFIED

‘John Nash’ baby’s killing remains unsolved

Posted on April 12, 2021

Local newsTop news
A homeless man digging for food in a Rocky Mount dumpster in 2007 discovered the body of an unidentified baby boy covered by this plastic Cheetos bucket that investigators believe may be a clue in the case.

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A homeless man digging for food in a Rocky Mount dumpster in 2007 discovered the body of an unidentified baby boy covered by this plastic Cheetos bucket that investigators believe may be a clue in the case.

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

Unidentified is a weekly series examining the more than 120 cases of unidentified human remains discovered in North Carolina. Reporter Lindell J. Kay produces each installment for The Enterprise of Spring Hope and other Restoration NewsMedia newspapers.

Unidentified is a weekly series examining the more than 120 cases of unidentified human remains discovered in North Carolina. Reporter Lindell J. Kay produces each installment for The Enterprise of Spring Hope and other Restoration NewsMedia newspapers.

ROCKY MOUNT — A baby boy found in a Food Lion dumpster 14 years ago had been strangled to death by someone the defenseless child would have naturally expected to keep him safe.

Known only as Baby John Nash, the day-old infant had an elastic hair band tied around his neck and died of “ligature strangulation,” according to previously unpublicized information contained in the child’s autopsy report.

The pseudonym is a combination of John Doe, a name applied to unidentified male decedents, and the county where the baby was found.

A homeless man looking for food dug through a dumpster behind a shopping center on Harbor West Drive on Feb. 7, 2007. He found Baby John Nash’s little body — the infant weighed 7 pounds — under a Cheetos bucket. 

The man picked up the dead child, thinking the body to be a baby doll. When he realized the body belonged to a human infant, he sought help and the authorities were called.

Whether washed ashore, unearthed in shallow graves, stumbled upon in the woods, discovered in abandoned houses, killed on busy roads or located in rivers, ponds and along railroad tracks, more than 120 bodies remain unidentified in North Carolina. This is one of their stories.

The plastic Cheetos bucket found with the baby’s body wasn’t sold in the area, which led investigators to believe the child may have been from elsewhere and was just dumped in Rocky Mount. Investigators have spent a lot of time and effort trying to track down the bucket’s exact origin.

Another piece of evidence that may one day lead to the baby’s killer: Medical examiner Karen Vick discovered a single strand of long, dark hair beneath the hair band turned murder weapon. DNA technology could one day advance to the point the hair sample could be used to help identify a suspect. The hair could be used now to match to a suspect developed through other means.

The child’s DNA could also one day lead to his killer.

On March 3, 1999, the body of a day-old baby was found in a plastic bag on a roadside in Cumberland County. Last year, detectives were able to use new DNA technology to identify a 54-year-old woman as the suspect in the murder of the infant, known only as Baby Michael.

Authorities charged Deborah O’Conner with first-degree murder in that case. Her next court date is set for May 11.

Rocky Mount police told WNCN-TV then that the department’s cold case investigators hoped the same technology can help identify Baby John Nash and catch his killer.

Rocky Mount’s current Cold Case Homicide Unit was formed in 2018 by then-interim police chief Willie Williams — who served as chief of police in Wilson for six years — and continued by Chief George Robinson, who retired at the end of 2020.

Anyone with information about Baby John Nash’s identity is asked to call the Rocky Mount Police Department at 252-972-1450, Twin County Crime Stoppers at 910-892-2222 or Team Cold Case at 252-406-6736. A monetary reward is available.

Next week’s installment in the Unidentified series will report the details of an unknown man’s body fished out of the Tar River four decades ago.

Editor’s note: Unidentified is a weekly series examining the more than 120 cases of unidentified human remains discovered in North Carolina. Reporter Lindell J. Kay produces each installment for The Enterprise of Spring Hope and other Restoration NewsMedia newspapers.

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