As the small pink casket was carried by a single first responder down the aisle of Snoqualmie Valley Alliance Church on Saturday, mothers, fathers, grandparents and community members stood watching, tissues to noses, and breaths held.
None had known the child.
But more than 100 of them were drawn to the service honoring the newborn-baby girl abandoned last month in a wooded area off Southeast North Bend Way near Kimball Creek Bridge. Whether Baby Kimball, as she has become known, was stillborn, died after birth or was killed, authorities will not say. The mother has not been found. No arrests have been made.
On Saturday, though, she had family — with a funeral in Fall City, and a procession to her burial in SeaTac.
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“She doesn’t have any family … someone had to be there for her,” said Amber Bastedo, 23, of Snoqualmie,
her 9-month-old boy on her hip.
After the story of Baby Kimball
hit the news Feb. 12, the King County Sheriff’s Office, Eastside Fire & Rescue, SAVE (Stop Abuse and Violence Everywhere) and the TEARS Foundation banded together to honor Baby Kimball, to give the small community an opportunity to grieve and to raise awareness that mothers and parents have options and don’t have to make the kind of decisions that leave a child dead or injured.
“Everyone’s gut reaction is to say ‘who could do something like that,’ ” said Sgt. Katie Larson of the King County Sheriffs Office. “But we don’t know the circumstances behind what happened, and we want to shed a light on the resources available without passing any judgment.”
Trista Olson, 29, a student and mom from Issaquah, who’s also expecting, turned off the news when she first heard what had happened because she couldn’t bear to think about it. She attended Saturday’s service so Baby Kimball would have someone there who would have loved her, she said.
Jane Raymond, 22, attended to honor not only Baby Kimball, but also in honor of 4-month-old Dustin Sattleberg, who died in a car accident in 2008. Raymond was a passenger in the car that crashed near Exit 27 on Interstate 90, and she was in a coma for baby Dustin’s funeral.
“This is close to my heart,” Raymond said. “I wasn’t going to come because I was overwhelmed and sad, but this is an innocent baby who was taken.”
Cindy Heer of SAVE, an abuse-prevention organization that advocates for children and victims of abuse, spearheaded Saturday’s service. She said she reached out to the sheriff’s department and the Rev. Marty Benedict of the Snoqualmie Valley Alliance Church, who is also one of four chaplains for Eastside Fire & Rescue, because she thought the death of Baby Kimball could be a teachable moment.
“I wanted everyone to come together so Baby Kimball’s death didn’t have to be in vain,” Heer said about the need for the service. “There were more than 600,000 cases of child abuse and neglect in 2011 in our country … that is way too many.”
The program for the service outlined how tough it can be to be a parent, and it listed things community members could do to lighten the burden on their neighbors who may be out of work or for a struggling single mom: Offer to baby-sit, help with chores, suggest resources and learn how to recognize and report signs of child abuse.
Both Heer and the sheriff’s department made it a point to open up the service to the media to explain that under the “safe-haven” infant-protection laws, a person can give up an unwanted infant anonymously without fear of arrest — as long as the baby has not been abused.
Officials say Baby Kimball was carried to full term and still had the umbilical cord attached when she was found.
Detectives are asking people to view the photos posted online of what Baby Kimball was wrapped in, and anyone with information to call the King County Sheriff’s Office at 206-296-3311 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
After Saturday’s service, 20 cars followed the Eastside Fire & Rescue aid car carrying Baby Kimball in a procession through Fall City and Preston, then onto Bonney Watson Funeral Home in SeaTac. Fifty people attended the graveside service where they placed yellow daffodils on her casket and watched as she was interred in the TEARS Foundation’s Angel of Hope Monument.
“Now she will always be surrounded by other angels and family members who visit other babies,” Heer said.
Coral Garnick: 206-464-2422 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or Twitter @coralgarnick