The mountains of Oregon are absolutely beautiful, whether in photographs or in person. But mountains can hold deadly secrets. One such secret was found over fifty years ago, and we’re just now starting to learn more about it. Let’s talk about the body that was, up until recently, the oldest set of unidentified human remains in Oregon.
discovery of the body
On July 11, 1963, a man was fishing in the Keene Creek Reservoir, about 12 miles east of Ashland, Oregon. When he hooked a blanket on his line, he initially thought it was nothing more than that. But when he opened it up, he found a human body.
The body was of a boy, one or two years old at the most, who had been wrapped in the blanket as well as a patchwork quilt. He was fully clothed, dressed in a red long sleeved shirt, gray corduroy pants, a cloth diaper, socks and shoes. Also found on his body were assayer’s molds wrapped up in the blanket, presumably used to weigh his body down. These molds, as well as telephone wire also found with his body, had already fallen out of use by the time he was found.
An autopsy conducted the next day determined the boy had been dead since around October of 1962 — so less than a year. He was decomposed, and investigators believed he had some sort of developmental disability, possibly Down’s Syndrome. His cause of death couldn’t be determined, but it was investigated as a homicide.
Further investigation determined his clothes were probably from JC Penney.** His shoes were from Norris Shoes in Medford, about 13 miles north of Ashland. Early investigators thought they might be able to identify the boy through his clothes, and pictures were shared with the public in the hopes that someone would recognize them. Investigators also took prints of his feet and compared them with footprints of newborns from local hospitals around the time he would have been born.
**this source requires a Facebook login
“There were a lot of other priorities in the country at that time. I hate to say this, but it kind of slipped through the cracks.”
Over the years, this boy did earn a few nicknames. He’s been called ‘Keene Creek Boy’ and ‘Ashland Baby Doe.’ But the name I saw him referred to the most in my research was ‘the boy in a bundle.’
After the case went cold, the files were archived until it was reopened in 2007. The boy’s body was exhumed in 2008 and a DNA sample was obtained from his femur bone. Further testing at this time also determined his age range was probably a little higher than early investigators thought — closer to between 18 months and 2 1/2 years. In 2009, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released a new composite image to show what the boy in a bundle may have looked like.
Then, in December 2020, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office got a tip about the case via Facebook Messenger. It’s not publically known who sent the tip or what it actually said, but the boy in a bundle’s DNA was sent to Parabon NanoLabs, a “vertically integrated DNA technology company” (according to their website). Later that month, two possible siblings of the boy were located.
One of the siblings, who lived in Ohio at the time, was interviewed by police. He told them about Stevie, his half brother with Down’s Syndrome, who was born in New Mexico but later moved to Oregon. This man also gave a DNA sample.
After this interview, investigators looked into birth certificates of boys named Stevie born in 1960 or 1961.
They found one they believed was their Doe and confirmed everything via DNA — I assume by the DNA given by his half brother. On June 28, 2021, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office announced that the ‘boy in a bundle’ had been identified as 2-year-old Stevie Crawford. Like I mentioned earlier, his remains were the oldest unidentified remains in Oregon at the time. Now, after 58 years, the public finally knew his real name.
Steven Alexander Crawford was born on October 2, 1960 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. By 1962, the man police believe was Stevie’s biological father lived in California. Around this time, Stevie’s mom went on a trip and came home without him. She told her family they wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore.
Stevie’s mom, stepdad and the man believed to be his biological father have all died. His family still lives in New Mexico and plans to get his body moved there to be reburied.
As of August 2021, no photos of Stevie have been publically released. I will update this post if that changes.
According to several articles published in June and July of 2021, there probably won’t be any charges in Stevie’s death. Sheriff’s officials agree his death is suspicious because of the way his body was disposed of, but his death could have been accidental. This case wasn’t expected to have charges brought even all the way back in 2009, when Detective Colin Fagan said:
“We are not interested in prosecuting this case. We have a responsibility to identify the unidentified remains and that’s what this case is all about.”
So what happened to Stevie Crawford? Unsurprisingly, most people online think he was killed by his mom or maybe his stepdad. Some people believe his mom was unwilling or unable to care for a child with Down’s Syndrome, or that it was a mercy killing because he had some sort of health problem that she didn’t think he would survive. There’s also been speculation that his death really was accidental but was, for whatever reason, covered up.
I’ve also seen a lot of people talking about Stevie’s mom’s statement to her family — that they wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore. Just about everyone who has speculated about this case online says his family probably thought he was taken to an institution. A lengthy Reddit thread on the case includes several anecdotes from people who said this was common for people with Down’s Syndrome at the time and that people with disabilities were often dumped in these institutions and essentially forgotten about.
I’m not exactly an expert on this topic, and we don’t know any other details of what happened to Stevie. No family members have come forward to give any more information, and of course we should respect their privacy. So just keep in mind that this is all speculation, but I did want to share it to give you an idea of what might have happened.
It’s hard to call this case “solved,” but it seems like we know all we’re going to know for now. If nothing else, I’m glad Stevie was finally identified and I hope his family is able to rebury him in the place where he was born — if they haven’t already.