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KC Unsolved: Investigators still trying to identify newborn boy known as ‘Precious Joe’ 19 years later

By Emily Rittman

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    PLATTE COUNTY, Missouri (KCTV) — A heart-wrenching discovery started a 19-year investigation to uncover the identity of a newborn boy whose body was left in a once remote part of Platte County.

Without a known name, the baby boy eventually became called “Precious Joe.”

“We still don’t know who this baby is and how he got there,” Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said. “Tell us so that ‘Precious Joe’ can rest in peace.”

The ongoing investigation has troubled Zahnd ever since he and investigators were called to the area where the infant was found nearly two decades ago. “It is rare that I go many days in a row without remembering that scene,” Zahnd said. “Nineteen years later, with thousands more cases under my belt as prosecutor, this case still speaks to me. It still haunts me.”

On April 26, 2004, electric utility employees working nearby noticed something underneath a blue Walmart bag near Tiffany Springs Road and North Hull in Platte County. “Initially, they may have thought that it was a doll and upon removing the bag saw that it was a child,” Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department Detective Ephraim Vega said.

The location where “Precious Joe” was found has since transformed. There are now several neighborhoods nearby. Back then, it was off the beaten path. “A place where you really have to know how to get there,” Detective Vega said. “You had to be familiar with the area to know that was a place where some would dump trash.”

Not long after the discovery, a cross, teddy bear and flowers were placed near where the baby was found. “Precious Joe’s cross is even gone now. It would be a shame for us to forget about this precious baby boy who was left there. I just hope that the public will help us discover who he is,” Zahnd said. “I really believe that it’s likely that the parents of this baby were from this general area.”

Investigators released a photo of a hoop earring that was found near the infant. To this day, even with advancements in DNA technology, investigators have not yet been able to identify “Precious Joe” or his parents. “The baby was found with part of its umbilical cord attached,” Zahnd said.

Over the years, detectives tracked down leads and compared the newborn’s DNA to those who were suspected of possibly being his parents but their DNA was not a match. “We haven’t forgotten, and we are constantly looking for new leads,” Detective Vega said.

Anyone with information, including information about anyone who frequented the once remote area back in 2004, is asked to contact investigators. “Our goal is that this baby rest in peace. Part of doing that is identifying who he is and how he came to be there,” Zahnd said. “That’s so much more important than whether there’s any criminal charges that come from it.”

Anyone with information can anonymously report it by calling the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS. You can also contact KCPD detectives directly by calling 816-234-5513 or 816-234-5043.

“This baby deserves more,” Zahnd said. “I’ve not given up on it 19 years later. I’ll never give up on it. As long as I’m prosecutor, I will continue to try to figure out who this baby is. I hope we can do that sooner rather than later.”

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