‘Unimaginable': Search Continues After Child's Body Parts Found in Lagoon

Investigators on Wednesday said the discovery of a toddler's dismembered remains in a Chicago lagoon is "unimaginable" and called for anyone with knowledge on the child's death to come forward.

"I don’t have the words strong enough to describe how reprehensible this incident is," Chicago Police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said. "The fact that somebody could do this to a child is frankly unimaginable. There’s somebody out there that knows what happened to this child. Do the right thing, turn yourselves in."

Officials said two feet, two hands and a head, all of which belonged to a young child, were found inside the Garfield Park Lagoon on Chicago's West Side over the weekend. They estimated that the body had been in the water for a week or two.

"In 24 years in this department I can tell you this is one of the most challenging crimes I've been a part of," said Deputy Chief Special Functions Steve Georgas. 

Police will continue to drain the lagoon Wednesday as they work to identify the toddler and search for other missing remains.  More than 100 divers, detectives and officers remained at the scene Wednesday and authorities will continue investigating "24/7" until the case is solved. 

Georgas said divers searched for hours after the discovery despite hot and humid conditions, but he noted the lagoon water poses a challenge.

"There's no way to see underneath the water," he said. "Even our most sophisticated sonar equipment becomes useless in this environment."

Officials began canvassing the neighborhood Wednesday, distributing fliers asking that residents report suspicious activity or missing children matching the vague description of the toddler. 

Chief of Detectives John Escalante said authorities are working with a sketch artist to attempt to create an image of what the child may have looked like, but officials had earlier noted that the remains were "badly decomposed."

"Right now, we believe someone out there has knowledge that can help us," he said. 

The Cook County medical examiner's office and Chicago Police Department said an initial examination of the body determined the victim was most likely an African-American child between the ages of 2 and 3 years old. 

"All the body parts appear to be from a child of approximately the same age," according to the statement from both the medical examiner and Chicago police. 

Officials said the child had short, curly black hair, brown eyes and the earlobes were not pierced. The lack of ear piercing suggests the child was likely a male, authorities said, but they have not yet determined if the child was a boy or a girl. 

DNA samples were submitted and a "dental consultation" has taken place. Fingerprints and footprints were taken by the Chicago Police Department and an anthropological consultation is pending, officials said.

The cause and manner of death are pending the results of additional tests and an ongoing police investigation. It was not immediately clear when those results would be released.

Officers were first called to the lagoon around 4:40 p.m. Saturday when someone called 911 to report they saw something strange floating in the water, Chicago Police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said. The object in the water turned out to be a toddler's left foot, according to police.

Upon further investigation, officers found the right foot and a hand about 25 yards away. Later Sunday, they recovered the child's head.

A 20-pound weight was also found near the body parts, Guglielmi said. Police are still investigating whether the weight is connected to the discovery of the remains or if it was simply dumped in the same area.

"Cases involving children are exceptionally difficult for all affected — even police," Guglielmi said. "We will comb every square inch of the lagoon for whatever may or may not be in there." 

Police have also begun looking through missing children reports in the city and state and have contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Guglielmi said.

Garfield Park is closed until further notice as police investigate. Anyone with information on missing children fitting the description are asked to call (312) 744-8261.

"We're going to take every phone call and follow up on every lead," Escalante said. "We'll follow every lead wherever it takes us."

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