It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven weeks since the body of Deer Island Doe was discovered on a stone covered beach facing Boston.
For the local detectives working to identify the little girl it is a daily challenge to juggle all the tips and telephone calls coming in. Even as they talk to a reporter about the case the phone rings with a tip from out of state. It doesn’t pan out but it must be forwarded to the state police. If the tip is local the Winthrop detectives check it out.
“In the beginning the phones lit up like a switch board,” said Winthrop Detective Wayne Carter of the dedicated phone lined used only for tips. “Now it’s less.”
Winthrop Police Detective Timothy Callinan said people reacting to the girl’s composite photograph is the most common trigger for a tip. “We were full out for days.”
Carter said everyone is so passionate about finding the identity of Deer Island Doe. There are a couple of Facebook pages focus on identifying the little girl and providing a space for people to share their thoughts. One administrator of one Facebook page lives in Malden. Another one is in Florida.
Callinan and Carter remember the day well when Deer Island Doe was found. They were called out of a training they were attending in Boston. Winthrop Detective Dawne Armistead was already on the scene.
“We secured the scene, taped off the area and waited for them (state police investigators) to open the bag,” Callinan said. “The image never comes out of your head.”
“We have children and you think of your own with something like this,” Carter said.
Having your own children always makes the case hit home. It hit even harder for Callinan, when his third child, a boy, was born three days after Deer Island Doe was found.
“We all went home and hugged our kids,” Carter said. “You appreciate life when you see something like this.”
Neither detective has ever had a case like this one. Both are graduates of Winthrop High School. Carter has been with the department for 19 years and Callinan for 14 years.
“I’ve never come across a case before like this,” Callinan said. “Nothing about this case is a typical investigation.”
Working with the state police and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, Winthrop Police have an active role in the investigation. Carter explained that the tips come in and are immediately forwarded.
“We don’t want any time to lapse,” Carter said. “It takes time to track people down.”
He explained that it may be a small tip from a neighbor, but it sends detectives on a records search. One search for a person can take one to two days. There have been many photographs to look at. Callinan said “you look at the photo and think that’s the one and it’s not.”
“We are able to work on other cases during this time but when that phone rings that’s the priority,” Carter said. “Everyone is helping. Everyone wants to help.”
A woman walking her dog along the western shore of Deer Island found the child’s body in a trash bag at the waterline on the afternoon of June 25. She is believed to have been about 4 years old, had brown eyes and brown hair, weighed about 30 pounds, and stood about 3½ feet tall. She was wearing a distinctive pair of white leggings with black-and-white polka dots and was found with a zebra-print fleece blanket that investigators believe may have been special to her.
A composite image depicting the girl as she may have appeared in life was created by forensic artists at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and has been viewed online more than 50 million times.
Anyone with information leading to the identification of Deer Island Doe may call the tipline at 617-396-5655. You may also text the word “GIRL” with a tip to 67283.