2018-04-25 / Features

Tears At Funeral For Baby

BY LIZ GOFF


Funeral for baby Dutch James Hope. Funeral for baby Dutch James Hope. More than 200 people gathered at Most Precious Blood Church in Astoria on the morning of April 21 for a funeral service for a newborn boy whose final moments were spent in a trashcan inside a Long Island City playground.

More than 100 NYPD officers gathered with officers from the Nassau County Police Department, first responders and local residents to share their love and grief for Dutch James Hope, a little boy they never knew.

Onlookers wept openly as four officers from the 114th Precinct lifted the boy’s tiny casket from a hearse outside the church. Tony Ramos, 30, said he is “still sickened by the thought of the heartless monster” who left the baby in the trashcan inside the Dutch Kills Playground at 36th Avenue and Crescent Street. “I hope the police catch up with whoever did this,” said Ramos, a father of three who lives in Dutch Kills.

A woman walking with her son on the frigid morning of February 17 told police she smelled an odor coming from the trashcan and looked inside. When the woman lifted a yellow grocery bag from the trashcan she saw what appeared to be the body of a baby inside, police said. The horrified woman placed the bag back in the trashcan and called to her son to dial 911.

Police at the 114th Precinct removed the unconscious, unresponsive baby from the trashcan and rushed him to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Dutch’s body was found with the umbilical cord and placenta still attached, according to the city Medical Examiner. An autopsy revealed that the baby died of hypothermia.

The Children of Hope Foundation and the NYPD took custody of the baby and arranged the funeral, foundation founder Timothy Jaccard said.

Officers from the 114th and 108th Precincts and the NYPD Blue Angels lined the street outside the church on Saturday morning to support and cherish the short life of Dutch James Hope. “Whenever it’s a baby, it tugs at everyone’s heartstrings, especially police officers,” said Dep. Inspector Osvaldo Nunez, Commanding Officer of the 114th Precinct. “When it’s a newborn, even the most hardened police officers mourn and take it to heart.”

The tiny casket, draped in a white cloth embroidered with a gold cross, was placed at the altar, surrounded by dozens of white roses, daisies, chrysanthemums, and a little brown teddy bear. Among the flowers was an arrangement with a card that simply read, “God Bless Dutch James Hope…with Love from the Dutch Kills Civic Association.”

Neighbors in the tight-knit community are still shaken and grieving the little boy’s death, association Dutch Kills Civic Association President George Stamatiades said. “Dutch Kills is likened to a small town in a big city. Now we’re a small town with a broken heart.”

Jaccard said he was touched by an outpouring of grief and love expressed by the Dutch Kills community in the days after the baby was discovered in the trashcan. “The community immediately named the baby “Dutch” because they wanted him to have an identity,” Jaccard said. “It was a first, the first time that a community united and showed that kind of compassion.” Jaccard said he decided to keep the name Dutch as a reminder of the community’s love for the little boy.

“The woman who found the baby asked that he be named James, Jaccard said. The baby’s last name, ‘Hope,’ is the same as 139 other children who have been laid to rest by the foundation at its “Island Of Hope” burial plot at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury, Long Island.

The burials are a kindness, and for each child there is a baptism and a church service filled with love and dignity, Jaccard said.

Since it was founded in 1998, Children of Hope has established crisis center hotlines on Long Island, Ohio, Massachusetts, Florida, California and Indiana to field calls from women seeking help for a child of an unwanted pregnancy. Its Bellmore, Long Island crisis center receives more than 2,000 calls each year. To date, the foundation has saved more than 3,569 infants and children nationwide through its crisis centers and outreach.

Jaccard said his original goal was to provide proper burial for infants in Nassau County who had met with the same fate as Dutch James Hope. He became their legal guardian and named the babies before they were buried at the Island of Hope. Word spread, and before long Jaccard was getting calls from police and first responders throughout the metropolitan area asking him to bury abandoned newborns.

“It’s sad, but yes, at the same time in my heart I know that the babies are now part of our family and will stay in our family,” Jaccard said.

The Long Island native crafted the first Safe Haven Law that was passed in Texas in 1999. One year later, the New York State Legislature enacted the Infant Abandonment Act, giving mothers the option of surrendering infants under specific guidelines at specific locations, including police stations, firehouses and churches, without fear of prosecution. New York City enacted an almost identical Safe Haven Law in the 1990s.

Jaccard’s persistent lobbying efforts have since resulted in the passage of Safe Haven laws in all 50 states, leading people to call him the “Father of Safe Haven.”

In addition to counseling expectant mothers, Jaccard is frequently called on to speak at high schools, colleges and before community organizations. He is also working to establish a statewide network of Safe Haven centers where women can obtain help.

The overall cost of the funeral and burial for newborns like Dutch James is about $1,500, according to Jaccard. “If the foundation was unable to cover the cost of the funeral for Dutch James, the NYPD would have helped us out, or we could have turned to local funeral homes and businesses that offered to cover the cost.”

Dutch’s marble gravestone has a glass plaque adorned with two angels that is engraved with a single date, February 17, 2018.

“Yes, his life was tragically short, but we have accomplished our mission to surround him with lots of love and dignity.” Jaccard said.

“We see that this funeral is different, not only because of the age or the child, but something that goes beyond age, and that is innocence,” Father Vedran Kirincic said during the mass for Dutch James. “This child is innocent in the eyes of God. There is nothing more beautiful than baby Dutch James Hope.”

The NYPD is offering a $2,500 reward to anyone with information on who left Dutch James Hope in the trashcan, the baby’s identity, or family members. Anyone with information is urged to call the CrimeStoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS or click on www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.

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