Nearly a decade later, baby's death to be reexamined

A photo from Bill and Susan Ferrier of the headstone for the infant, who they named Baby Blue, at Seaside Cemetery in Marmora, N.J.
A photo from Bill and Susan Ferrier of the headstone for the infant, who they named Baby Blue, at Seaside Cemetery in Marmora, N.J.
Posted: October 12, 2013

VENTNOR, N.J. Nearly a decade ago, Bill Ferrier saw a yellow laundry bag tumbling around in the Atlantic Ocean. He carried it to the Ventnor boardwalk and opened it. Inside, he found the body of a newborn, umbilical cord and placenta still attached.

He called the police, then his wife, Susan. "You're not going to believe what I found," he told her.

"Is it a body?" Susan Ferrier recalled asking her husband. He replied: "It's a little bit worse than that; it's a newborn."

The six-pound girl had been in the water for one to two days, but it was not clear when or where she had been strangled, an autopsy showed. Bill Ferrier named her Baby Blue after his favorite color, and it was a clear blue sky that day, his wife said.

"She had to have a name," Susan Ferrier said. "She wasn't just 'the baby.' "

The Ferriers buried her in December 2004, nearly a year after she was found, after no family came forward. Her mourners were strangers. Investigators never found her mother or witnesses.

On Wednesday, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office's said detectives with its newly created Cold Case Unit would revisit the homicide. The office was unavailable for further comment.

"We have strong empathy for the birth mother because for a young woman to do this, it just shows a level of desperation that most of us don't experience," Ferrier, 47, a Lansdale native, said Wednesday.

Shortly after Baby Blue came into her life, Ferrier founded the Baby Blue Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to help young women avoid abandoning or taking their child's life.

The nonprofit, run out of the couple's Ventnor home, organized an annual clothing drive and raised awareness of the state's Safe Haven law. Passed in 2000, it allows a person to drop off a baby less than 30 days old to an emergency room or police station anonymously and safely.

Ferrier, a freelance writer who graduated from Rowan University in 2004, ran the organization until last year, shuttling back and forth from Elkton, Md., where the couple have lived since 2010, and New Jersey.

"I wasn't able to find people to keep it going," she said.

Bill Ferrier, 52, a safety specialist for the Army Corps of Engineers, is working on a project out of the country. He was unavailable to comment.

He grew up in a foster home in Perkasie.

"It was almost destiny that this happened. Anybody could have found her, but it was him for a reason," his wife said. "His difficult childhood made him particularly empathic to this situation."

On Jan. 17, 2004, Bill Ferrier had decided to take a walk and smoke a cigar when he found the yellow laundry bag at Suffolk Avenue, a block from the couple's home. There was a sealed black plastic bag inside the laundry bag. Baby Blue was wrapped in a third bag.

Nearby, two other bags were found, which may have been used to weigh the laundry bag down to try to sink it, authorities said Wednesday.

Susan Ferrier said her husband also found underwear in the bag, likely belonging to a young or petite woman. Authorities told Ferrier that they believed the mother may have lived within a mile of where it was found.

The Ferriers, who did not have children, got permission to bury Baby Blue by writing a letter to the medical examiner's office because they thought there was a chance that no one would claim the body.

A DNA profile determined that Baby Blue was "61 percent European Caucasian and 39 percent Asian," the Prosecutor's Office said.

Ferrier bought a onesie to bury the baby.

"I remember thinking, this is not like shopping for a baby shower. This is horrible," she said.

Ventnor officers and firefighters, and the mayor then, Tim Kreischer, attended the burial at Seaside Cemetery in Marmora in December 2004.

"The tiny casket that the baby was in, I've never seen anything like that," Kreischer said Thursday.

A monument company donated the headstone, which reads Heaven Gives Its Favorite Early Death. The state Victims of Crime Compensation Office paid for the funeral.

Once a year, Susan Ferrier goes to the cemetery, usually on the anniversary. She always finds stuffed animals and candles left by others.

Authorities encourages anyone with information about the case to call the Cold Case Unit at 609-909-7800 or Ventnor City police at 609-822-2101.




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