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Body of Child Buried 145 Years Ago Found Perfectly Preserved in Casket Under Home


Construction workers remodeling a San Francisco home made an unexpected discovery when they unearthed a coffin containing a perfectly preserved young girl buried 145 years ago, officials said.

The three-foot lead and bronze casket’s two windows revealed a little girl, whose long blond, lavender-plaited hair and porcelain skin were still intact when she was found May 9.

A cross made of lavender that laid across her heart and a rose placed on the girl after she died around the age of three were also still preserved.

“She looked like she had just gone to sleep yesterday. There was no deterioration of her body at all. It's fascinating because she was so well preserved. He opened her up and she was exposed to the elements. She is now wasting away,” Elissa Davey, founder of Garden of Innocence, which buries unidentified children, told InsideEdition.com.

She came to the aid of homeowner Ericka Karner, who was at a loss for what to do with the child’s body, which the city refused to take responsibility for. Karner was told that she would need a death certificate to obtain a burial permit for the girl.

An undertaker said they would take the body for $7,000, while an archeological company said it would charge $22,000. She was then put in touch with Davey.

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“I told her I'd help. She practically melted. 'Someone's going to help!' She was shocked,” Davey, a genealogist, said.

It is believed the girl was one of 30,000 people buried in the city’s Odd Fellow Cemetery, which was open for 30 years before it was closed in 1890, Davey said.

The deceased were moved to a Colma burial plot to allow for redevelopment, but the child was left behind.

“They moved everybody but they missed one,” Davey said. “I'm a genealogist by hobby so I already knew about the removing of all the bodies, so I wasn't surprised. What surprised me most was that the casket with the baby was never disrupted in 140 years.”

To continue preserving the little girl, she was moved to a refrigerated area in Fresno, Davey said. Karner’s daughters named her Miranda.

“This child has been in the homeowner's family since 1977 (when they moved in) so they should get to name her,” Davey said.

There appear to be no markings on the casket to further identify the child. The casket should have a medallion with her name on it, but it’s no longer there, Davey said.

“We're trying to find out who she is. We're trying to find a plot map of the cemetery from the 1800s. I've got private detectives, Berkeley's history [department and] multiple people trying to find out who she is,” she continued, saying that they have estimated the child’s age based on her teeth.

“This is somebody's child! Who is she? What's her name? Where is her mother? She needs to be close to her mother. If her mother is in that mass burial site in Colma, she should be close,” Davey said.

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Miranda will be permanently laid to rest at 10 a.m. on June 4 at a Greenlawn Memorial Park cemetery in Colma.

“She deserves more than a mass grave. She deserves a special place.”

She will not be disturbed from her final resting place. “We're not moving her from inside the casket, she's quite comfortable in there,” Davey said.

Miranda is the 328th child that Davey has helped bury. She has been laying forgotten children to rest since 1998, when she read a story about a baby boy who died after he was dumped in a trash can at a college campus. 

After being unable to get the child off her mind, Davey called the county coroner who told her he still had the body. It would go to an unmarked grave if not claimed, the coroner explained. Davey asked what she had to do to claim the body of a child who wasn't hers.

"Show me you have a dignified place to put him," the coroner replied, which she has been doing ever since.

“We feel that these children deserve to have their journey completed," she said to InsideEdition.com. "To us, we're doing what we feel is right."

Before Miranda, the oldest children she was given to find a final resting place were from 1929 and 1930.

Those interested in aiding in Miranda’s burial can donate to the Garden of Innocence by clicking here. Be sure to note Miranda’s name in the memo section.

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