Searchers find child's head, other remains in Garfield Park lagoon

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The search for evidence in the death and dismemberment of a young child continued Monday in the Garfield Park lagoon.

About a half dozen members of the Chicago Police Marine Unit were clustered in the water at the northeast corner of the lagoon Monday morning.

Most of the park was ringed with yellow and red police tape, but it appeared police were using long sticks to probe the murky bottom, rather than diving.

Other than to say the search continued, police had no other updates Monday.

Chicago Police said Sunday night that a child’s head was found in the Garfield Park lagoon, and the case has been classified as a death investigation.

Earlier in the day, doctors were awaiting the results of a post-mortem examination of a child’s hands and feet found Saturday in the lagoon.

RELATED: Authorities provide description of child found dismembered in lagoon

The Cook County medical examiner’s office examined the body parts Sunday morning. Results were pending, but office spokesman Frank Shuftan said it would be impossible to determine the cause and manner of death from the four body parts alone.

Reached by phone on Sunday, Dr. Stephen Cina, the Cook County medical examiner, said his team would be looking for fingerprints, DNA and any telltale signs of trauma.

A search began Saturday after a person called 911 about 4:40 p.m. to report what turned out to be a toddler’s left foot floating in the Garfield Park lagoon.

Officers subsequently found the four body parts, Shuftan said. The remains were badly decomposed.

Police protected the crime scene as the search was called off overnight. It resumed Sunday morning as divers from the Police Marine Unit entered the water.

One focused his efforts on the bushy vegetation along the water’s edge. Another diver — crouched on all fours — crawled through the shallows feeling with his hands. A third diver poked and waved a large stick through the murky water.

Another officer, aided by the nose of a German shepherd, circled the shoreline as passersby looked on from behind police tape.

Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said other items of interest were found, but he declined to comment further.

Guglielmi said detectives were going through Chicago-area missing persons cases to determine if there could be a link to the remains.

Ald. Jason Ervin, (28th), said investigators told him the victim was likely 2 to 4 years old. Kids that age would be noticed by relatives or neighbors if they went missing, Ervin said Sunday.

“It is unthinkable that someone would dismember a child and throw them into the lagoon,” he said.

“My main concern is that this is not a larger incident,” Ervin said Sunday afternoon while addressing reporters yards from the lagoon.

“I would hope and pray that it’s just one child,” he said. “But I don’t think anyone can answer that definitively at this point.”

“I am not aware of any missing children right now. I would just hope the people in the community or across the city would just know that a child is not around from a relative or family member or neighbor and make that call to 911,” Ervin said. “I don’t believe that there is need for widespread alarm throughout the community in its entirety.”

Residents gathered on the perimeter of the park Sunday, speculating about how a child’s remains may have ended up there.

Perry Starks, 58, who lives a few blocks away, said there had been no alerts recently about any missing child.

“Usually someone would be asking, ‘Where’s my child?’ ” he said. “We haven’t heard anything like that.”

Veronica Day, 55, has lived across the street from the park for 16 years.

“Bad things go on in there,” said Day as she prepared for church Sunday morning. “But this is just spooky.”


Chicago Police officers and a canine search the area near the Garfield Park lagoon on Sunday. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Contributing: Stefano Esposito, Mitchell Armentrout, AP

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