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Strangers mourn the brutal death of a child without a name

When they found the little boy's battered body 27 days ago, tossed like litter into a cherry hedge in a Miami Beach garden, the horror of his death seemed boundless. But with each passing day, it is overshadowed by the horror of his anonymity.

And so the days fly by, and the cops track lead after lead into dead end after dead end, but nothing fits, and the child's body lies in the morgue because they can't even bury him until they find out his real name.

For now, the cops call him "Baby Lollipops."

All they know about him is that he was born two or three years ago, he was gradually starved and beaten down to 18 pounds, and then he died.

Wednesday, about 100 people, 30 of them police officers, gathered to pay tribute to the boy with two top teeth knocked out, the boy nobody will claim. The mayor, Alex Daoud, got choked up. Strangers bowed their heads and prayed for a youngster they've known only through a coroner's Polaroid.

"Today we are devoid of promise and of hope, " the Rev. Garth Thompson told the crowd at the 21st Street Community Center in Miami Beach. "How terrible that this little boy remains unknown. No name. No family. No home."

Ever since Nov. 2, when the boy's body was found by a Florida Power & Light crew off North Bay Road, publicity about the tragedy has stunned the community, even the nation. For a small group of people, each particularly involved, the case has taken a heavy toll.

Dr. Bruce Hyma, the associate medical examiner, who performed the autopsy:

"A child's death is always disturbing. I'm a father myself, and this death occurred on the day of my youngest son's birthday, so it certainly touched me in a sensitive spot.

"The fact that he's still unidentified tells us that this child certainly wasn't wanted and had no worth to whomever was taking care of him. I can't imagine a fellow human being could do something like that. Even animals don't treat their young this way.

"We have a number of unidentified male and female adults here, but it's rare that we have children unidentified because they are always wanted. They always have a caring adult who knows they're missing. I guess this little guy had nobody."

Paul Miller, local spokesman for the FBI, which is helping with crime-scene analysis:

"This is an abominable case. I mean, it's heart-wrenching what happened to this child. It's the most despicable case we've seen in many years, and the sooner we can catch the people who did it, the better we'll all feel. What happened to this child is a disgrace. We are all emotionally involved in this.

"In the FBI, we don't often see cases of child abuse, but the abuse this child suffered in his short lifetime was obvious."

Sgt. Joe Matthews, case supervisor for Miami Beach police:

"I think about it 24 hours a day. As an investigator, it's a very interesting and unique case. But I'm also the father of four, and while you try to separate your emotions from this work, the emotional part has been tough. There've been many occasions where we thought we were about to identify the child, only to be let down.

"How he got a nickname is a beautiful story. We were doing an area canvass, and I told this lady that if we ever want to bury this baby, we first have to give it a name. And a little girl about four standing next to her looked up and said, 'I can help.' I knelt down and asked her how, and she said, 'I could give the baby a name.' I said, 'What name would you give it?' and she said, 'I'd call him Baby Lollipops.'

"I promised her we'd call him that name until I found out his real name.

"My kids know what I'm working on. When my daughter, who's 10, , says her prayers at night, she prays for Baby Lollipops."

Maj. Alan Solowitz, chief of detectives:

"There are two things that get you in police work: crimes against children and crimes against the elderly, because here are two species of people who can't fight back. This one is particularly disturbing because of the manner in which this child was abused. His death was the final abuse.

"There's nowhere that I go these days that I don't think about him. I just got back from Jacksonville on another matter and talking to the chief of detectives there, I found it necessary to tell him about this case. I talk to chiefs of detectives all over the country, and I always find it necessary to tell them about it, too. I keep hoping that someone will think of something that we haven't done yet."

Detective Gary Schiaffo, lead investigator on the case:

"We're working every single lead, no matter how minor. I have that kid's face in my mind all the time. I've spent more time at work than at home since this happened. The poor little innocent.

"I'm thinking this child was a closet baby, and that's why no neighbors have missed him -- they never even saw him when he was alive. When I get home, my street's full of kids, and if I don't see so-and-so, I'll ask, and someone will say, 'Oh, he's got a cold today.' But this child may have been kept in and abused over a long time, punished by some sick mind.

"You get a hot lead, and you're thinking, 'This is it,' and the next thing you know, BOOM! -- you're back at the block. It's like climbing a ladder, and each time you get to the top rung it breaks, and you fall again to the bottom.

"When I go to the mall now, and I see little kids, I wonder if they're abused, too. Or I see somebody slap or shake their kid, and I go up to them and tell them to relax, count to 10. They look at me like I'm some kind of weirdo. But I was one of the first on the scene, and I saw that boy in the bushes, and I saw his face, and for me that'll always be a tender point right there.

"I hate to say it, but maybe it's better that he did die because now at least he's resting peacefully."

James Delaware, FPL cable splicer who found the boy's body:

"I was the one who pushed back the bushes and first saw his face. We thought for a few moments it was a doll. This was two days after Halloween, and we thought maybe it was a prank or something. It looked like it wasn't real.

"But dolls aren't that lifelike. When we realized what it was, I was trembling, in shock. I saw his face, and I will never forget that for as long as I live."

Rabbi Irving Lehrman, at Wednesday's memorial service:

"This child is our child. We are all mourners today. This tortured boy is now in Thy care, dear Lord, released from the pain and agony inflicted upon him during his short time on Earth.

"He is, at last, at peace."

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