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One of state's oldest unidentified person's cases is solved

First published in the July 2 print edition

Thursday, July 8, 2021

On July 11, 1963 – nearly 60 years ago -- the body of a fully dressed decomposed toddler was discovered by a fisherman in the Keen County Reservoir southeast of Ashland.

The little boy was wearing middle-class clothing -- a red long-sleeve shirt, gray corduroy pants, a cloth diaper with blue diaper pins, and “jumping jack” white shoes. He was wrapped in a blanket and handmade quilt.

Two heavy pieces of iron were wrapped in the quilt to weigh the toddler down in the water.

It was a case that drew a lot of attention at the time and investigators, many of them with their own young children, worked tirelessly to solve the case.

But the child was never identified. The little body was buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Medford.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office took over the case and, for the next 58 years, 23 detectives and deputies worked the case with assistance from Oregon State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The case was reopened in 2007, the tiny body was exhumed and a DNA sample was collected.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created a composite image in hopes of producing some investigative leads.

The University of North Texas Center for Human Identification extracted a DNA profile, which was uploaded into CODIS (the Combined DNA Indexing System).

Still, there were no matching family members in the system. In 2018, the Oregon State Police Medical Examiner’s Office was awarded a grant to perform innovative DNA techniques on unsolved unidentified skeletal remains cases. The toddler case was recognized as one that could be resolved by phenotyping and investigative genetic genealogy provided by OSP’s vendor lab, Parabon Nanolabs.

The first report using genetic material determined the child was of Northern European descent, with fair skin, brown eyes, and brown to light blonde hair.

Last October, a DNA profile suitable for comparison to genealogy databases was extracted.

Several relatives to the unidentified boy were found. Searching their family trees eventually led to the immediate family members of the boy who then provided information regarding his identity.

During an interview with a potential relative, the man said he’d had a younger half-brother named Stevie, who was born with Down syndrome. The child was born in New Mexico, but mysteriously vanished during a brief stay in Oregon in the early 1960s, the man said.

New Mexico’s vital records are kept private, so investigators had to make a formal request of any children named Stevie or Steven born in late 1960 or early 1961 to a woman who’d been identified through genetic genealogy.

The New Mexico records department discovered a birth certificate for Steven Alexander Crawford born Oct. 2, 1960, in Las Cruces.

The family member submitted an oral swab for kinship inference testing. The results were definitive; the deceased boy and the DNA donor were half-brothers, sheriff’s officials announced Monday.

Officials have not yet released a cause of death or who is suspected of killing the boy. His mother is no longer living.

Based on genetic and circumstantial evidence, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office plans to release the body to family members in New Mexico, who plan to give him a proper burial.

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