FAIRFIELD, Conn. (PIX11) -- Detective Kerry Dalling was still in grade school when a dead newborn boy was left in the woods near Lake Mohegan in March 1986. His face was mutilated and a burlap altar was placed near his body, with fruit and coins tossed on top of it.
"Whoever left this child wanted us to believe it was for a religious sacrifice," Dalling told PIX 11 Investigates in a recent interview at her detective squad in Fairfield, Connecticut.
"It was an attempt to dehumanize the baby," Dalling said, "So maybe, in some way, that made the murder easier to accomplish."
Dalling does not believe the baby's murder was part of a ritual, and she's asking for PIX11's help to solve the case, 28 years after the newborn was discovered near a garbage can.
"We hadn't had anything like that in the history of our department," noted Deputy Chief Chris Lyddy, who was a young patrolman in Fairfield, when the baby's body was found.
The case was cold for many years, until Detective Dalling decided to take a second look at it. She discovered that initial questions about a drug gang called "Number One Family" led to a home in Bridgeport, Connecticut where foster children were living in 1986.
A review of child welfare records showed the household was troubled.
"We discovered there were a lot of complaints of sexual abuse that were happening in the home" Dalling said.
The Fairfield detectives tried to squeeze more information out of the former foster mother, Dulce Nieves, who adopted a teen girl that lived in the household in 1986.
"I have never had any kind of complaint like that in my household," Nieves said.
Fairfield detectives have a full DNA profile of the baby's unknown mother. The mom's bloody pajama top and bottom were found near the baby at the scene.
When PIX11 asked Nieves if she knew who the baby's mother was, she responded, "I have no idea."