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Mysterious, 1930s-Era Remains Of Babies Found In Westlake Tied To Janet M. Barrie Through DNA, LAPD Says

MacArthur Park, formerly Westlake Park, in the heart of Westlake.
MacArthur Park, formerly Westlake Park, in the heart of Westlake.

It was a case that fascinated L.A. in the dog days of summer: Two fetuses were found wrapped up inside a steam trunk in a 1920s-era apartment building in the Westlake district near downtown in August.

The identities of the circa-1930s babies were a mystery, and authorities wondered know if foul play was involved.

On Tuesday the LAPD announced that the remains were connected through DNA to Janet M. Barrie, the likely mother. One of the babies had actually been born, police said. The other was a fetus. They were brother and sister.

Turns out no foul play was suspected. LAPD's statement:

The cause of death has not, and will likely not, be determined, but there were no obvious signs of trauma, and toxicology reports were inconclusive. Coroner's investigators believe the two babies were brother and sister. One was a fetus, while the other appeared to be a full term baby.

The entire story will probably never be known.

Barrie was born in 1897 and emigrated to the U.S. from Scotland in the mid-1920s. She ended up as a home-care nurse in L.A. for a woman named Mary Knapp.

The trunk belonged to Barrie and contained items from the 1930s. In fact the babies remains' had been wrapped in newspapers dated 1933 and 1935. A ticket stub from the 1932 Olympics was also found.

In 1964 Barrie married Mr. Knapp -- George Guy Knapp -- after the death his wife (you guessed it) Mary Downs Knapp. He died in 1968. She left L.A. in the '80s.

Two women cleaning out the apartment found the remains Aug. 17, police said. According to the LAPD's original statement on the case:

The women had been hired by the building's owner to clear out a portion of the building that had been abandoned and neglected for many years. Toward the end of that cleanout process, the women found several antique luggage trunks. Inside one of the trunks, they found what appeared to be two Doctor's bags. Inside one, wrapped in the pages of a 1930's era LA Times newspaper, was a mummified fetus. Inside the other, also wrapped in a 1930's era LA Times newspaper was another fetus. The women contacted the LAPD to report what they had discovered and officers immediately responded.

The remains were tied to Barrie after police tracked down her niece in Canada and obtained a DNA sample that tied the family genes to the babies.


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