Baby Nicholas: A mother remembers
Scott Swan/Eyewitness News
Indianapolis - An ultrasound image is what expectant mothers always want to see. When Nichole Moody learned she was having a boy, her dreams were answered.
"I was happy because I don't have any kids. I was very, very excited," Moody explained during an Eyewitness News exclusive interview.
Even as her son was growing inside her, Moody picked his name. Nicholas. She began to think about what he would become.
"For him to go to school. To help him with his school homework. For him to maybe be a football or basketball player," Moody recalled.
At 12:56 p.m. on June 10, 2008, Nicholas was born prematurely at Clarian Health Partners-IU Riley campus. He weighed two pounds, seven-ounces. His footprints were only slightly bigger than a penny.
"The lady said you have a little boy, do you want to see him? He's beautiful. And that's all that I can remember because I was heavily medicated," Moody said.
Moody remembers her son's hair the most.
"He had real thin curly hair. Real, real beautiful hair. Real shiny," Moody said.
Baby Nicholas lived only one day and died in the hospital at 2:20 a.m. on June 11, 2008. According to the Marion County Coroner's Office, the cause of death was pulmonary hypotension, due to pulmonary hypoplasia, due to extreme prematurity.
"I was quite upset because I never got to hold him. I thought maybe I should have held him. My sister brought him in the room." Moody said while crying.
The family decided to have Nicholas cremated and arranged for the body to be taken to Boatright Mortuary. For more than a year Moody tried unsuccessfully to contact the funeral home to retrieve her son's ashes. Then a bombshell hit. In October 2009, a horrifying discovery took place in an Indianapolis dumpster. People looking for scrap metal found the body of a baby.
Police began investigating. Who was this baby? Who put him there?
"I never thought it was my child," Moody said.
Moody was convinced her son had been cremated 16 months earlier and did not believe the baby in the trash was Nicholas. Multiple DNA tests failed to identify the boy.
"Our office faced significant challenges in using DNA to make the positive identification," chief deputy coroner Alfie Ballew wrote in an email to Channel 13. "DNA was sent to two different labs to be profiled and uploaded for matching, however this was unable to be completed because no DNA could be extracted from the samples submitted. There were over six attempts at extracting DNA unsuccessfully."
"Although the baby was not in ideal condition for viewing, we wanted to give it a try, since DNA was unsuccessful over six times," Ballew wrote. "We were able to track down who we thought was a possible mother. Based upon a hospital tag that was still on the baby, giving the date of birth and date of death and hospital name, we made a call. After reviewing the medical records, we were able to confirm the child was born and died at a hospital."Moody brought her son's pictures and identified the body in person.
"I knew right away it was him, like I said, by his hair," Moody said. "He was still in the morgue's body bag that they put you in when you're in the hospital and the reason he had a pamper on is because he was an infant. That's how they embalm kids. I don't understand why a person would put my son in the trash."
The media coverage caught the attention of Indianapolis resident Linda Znachko who recently launched the "He Knows Your Name" ministry.
"I read it like any other story and God moved my heart," Znachko recalls. "As the story read, baby doe found in a dumpster. Doe is not a name. A diaper is not burial clothes. And a dumpster is not a grave. The name (God) gives us, which gives us dignity, because we're created in His image, is an everlasting name."
Znachko contacted the Marion County Coroner's Office and offered to help.
"I wanted to make sure this baby was named and had a dignified burial," Znachko said. "This child was born early. But, it's no less a life. And it doesn't matter this baby was only 30 some weeks gestation. This child was a life. I felt like this baby is a child of God. It's precious and it was a life. And it needed to be acknowledged as such."
"Linda initially called our office when she first learned of the finding of the baby," Ballew said. "(Linda) explained that she wanted to provide a proper burial from the very beginning. She continued to stay in touch with the office providing her name and phone number, even if a mother or parent of the baby were not determined. Learning of her sincerity in this, I asked Nichole is she wanted any assistance from Linda and Nichole agreed to meet her."
The two women met and began to bond through the grieving.
"I could feel her grief, I could feel her anger and her suspicion of me. This was a person who didn't trust anyone," Znachko said. "She said it would be cheaper to cremate the baby and I said to her, but if you could have anything, what would it be."
"I told her that I wanted him to be buried somewhere nice so he can have dignity," Moody said. "So, he wouldn't just be a John Doe. She made sure of that."
On November 5, 2010, Nicholas was buried at Washington Park East Cemetery. Buried with dignity 29 months after he died.
"Even though Nicholas was lost for awhile, he was never forgotten," Znachko said to Moody. "Not (forgotten) by God, not by you. And that right there gives him dignity."
Moody carried flowers and put them at her son's grave.
"Love you baby, Momma loves you," Moody said while looking at the grave.
Moody wears the same heart charm her son wore during his short life in the hospital.
"It's a heart necklace. Some good friends got me this with his name. And a prayer on the charm. This says 'love' on it. And, it means the world to me because I can carry it everywhere I go and watch him and make sure it's ok," Moody said. "My mom says he's my angel, and he's with me every day, so it's why I don't take my necklace off."
A grand jury continues to investigate how baby Nicholas got into the dumpster.
"I don't think he was intended to be thrown in the trash. But someone put him there," Moody said. "I don't blame anybody. I just feel he's in a better place. He was a very beautiful boy and he has a name. He is someone. He is somebody. He's not just a John Doe. My son has a name. And he's buried with dignity."