Decades-old mummified remains of Baby John go missing from grave site

NEW HAMPSHIRE - The mummified body of a baby, kept by a family for nearly a century before a judge ordered the remains to be buried, has been removed from a cemetery, police said this week.

NEW HAMPSHIRE - The mummified body of a baby, kept by a family for nearly a century before a judge ordered the remains to be buried, has been removed from a cemetery, police said this week.

A cemetery visitor on Monday reported that a grave appeared to have been dug up, Sergeant John Thomas said. The corpse of "Baby John" has not been recovered, he said.

The mummified body had been kept for years by Charles Peavey. He had said the family had the mummy, possibly the stillborn son of a great-great-uncle, for 80 to 90 years and considered it a family heirloom.

The Police learned of it in 2006 after Peavey's then four-year-old niece mentioned it at her day care centre. Authorities took the 18-inch mummy in for testing, and Peavey went to court to get custody of it.

Relatives had treated the mummified infant as a family member, giving it cards during holidays and a dried fish as a pet.

The tests concluded that the baby had died of natural causes shortly after birth, and confirmed the remains were decades old, but did not determine the age or origin.

DNA tests failed to prove the boy was related to Peavey, and a judge ordered the remains buried.

The remains were interred in 2008 in Concord's Blossom Hill Cemetery, in a section for infants and young children.

"It wasn't that well-known where the exact location was," Thomas said of the grave site.

He said the police believe the grave was disturbed at the weekend.

After seeing evidence of grave-tampering, investigators got a warrant to exhume the site and found the casket, but not the remains, Thomas said.

He said many people had been interviewed but declined to name any suspects.

Peavey has denied disturbing the grave site, but his home and car were searched on Monday, his attorney Jim Rosenberg said.

"He has no information to offer with regard to this mess," Rosenberg said.

Peavey has not been charged.

"His sole wish, when Baby John was put to rest, was that the baby could rest peacefully," Rosenberg said. "This news has been ex-tremely difficult for Peavey to deal with."

Disturbance of a burial site and abuse of a corpse are a crime in the state. - Sapa-AP

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