CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The mummified body of a baby, kept by a family for nearly a century before a judge ordered the remains to be buried, has been removed from a cemetery, police said Tuesday.
A cemetery visitor on Monday reported that a grave appeared to have been unearthed, police Sgt. John Thomas said. The corpse of “Baby John” has not been recovered, he said.
The mummified body had been kept for years by Charles Peavey. He had said the family had the mummy, possibly the stillborn son of a great-great-uncle, for 80 to 90 years and considered it a family heirloom.
Police learned of it in 2006 after Peavey’s then-4-year-old niece mentioned it at her day care center. Authorities took the 18-inch mummy in for testing, and Peavey went to probate court to get custody of it.
The tests concluded the baby died of natural causes shortly after his birth and confirmed the remains were decades old, but did not determine the age or origin. DNA testing failed to prove the boy was related to Peavey, and so a probate judge ordered the remains buried.
The remains were interred in 2008 in an unmarked grave in a section of Concord’s Blossom Hill Cemetery containing the graves of infants and young children. Stuffed animals, figurines and other toys decorated the children’s gravesites Tuesday.
“It wasn’t that well-known where the exact location was,” Thomas said of the gravesite.
Thomas said the police believe the grave was disturbed over the weekend. After seeing evidence of grave-tampering, investigators got a search warrant to exhume the site and found the casket, but not the remains, he said. He said many people have been interviewed and declined to name any suspects.
Peavey denies disturbing the grave site, but his home and car were searched Monday, said his attorney, Jim Rosenberg.
“He has no information to offer with regard to this mess,” Rosenberg said.
Peavey has not been charged with any crime.
“His sole wish, when Baby John was put to rest a couple years back now, was that the baby could rest peacefully,” Rosenberg said. “This news has been extremely difficult for Mr. Peavey to deal with.”
Disturbance of a burial site and abuse of a corpse are felonies.
Relatives had treated the mummified infant as a family member, giving it cards during holidays and a dried fish as a pet.