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Silent and Alone, Retarded Boy Waits for Clues to Identity

Times Staff Writer

A T-shirt, a baptismal medal and a wheelchair sold by a New York man nine years ago are among the few clues investigators have in trying to learn the identity of a crippled and severely retarded boy who was abandoned Sunday in front of a home for mentally disabled adults near Saugus.

“We’ve been working two days on this case and we haven’t gotten anywhere,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Detective Dennis Carroll. “If we don’t find the parents he’ll live and die without anyone knowing who he is.”

The boy, who appears to be 8 to 10 years old, was found about 5:30 p.m., sitting in an adult wheelchair at Jewell Trumbo’s Welcome Home in the 15500 block of Sierra Highway. Investigators said the boy is Latino, had no identification and is unable to speak.

“He appears to have been well cared for,” said Trumbo, who found the youth in front of the home he runs for autistic adults. “His clothes were clean. While he was here we had to change his diapers and there was no diaper rash at all. His hair was just cut because there were a few clippings around his neck.

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“Whoever was caring for him must have loved him, but were just unable to cope with it anymore and didn’t know where to turn to,” Trumbo said. “They could have left him out in the desert. They left him here because they knew we would take care of him.”

Los Angeles police and county sheriff’s investigators assigned to child abuse and missing persons details said that they could not recall a previous case of a mentally or physically handicapped youth being abandoned. Cases of infants being abandoned at birth or elderly people wandering away from board-and-care facilities are not unusual, but the abandonment of a non-infant child “happens so infrequently . . . that when it does occur it really hits home,” Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Ford said.

Carroll said the boy was wearing a red, black and yellow sweat shirt over a pale yellow T-shirt stenciled with a dolphin jumping through a hoop and the phrase “Herrera’s Fishing Club.”

Hint of Birth Date

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A gold medal about the size of a dime and engraved with the words “Lake of Beseda” was draped around his neck. A picture of a man’s head peering out of water, a hand pouring water onto the man’s head and a dove were engraved on the front of the medal and the numbers 19/3/78 were etched on the back. Investigators think that might be the boy’s birthday.

But that’s about all detectives know about the boy, who is being housed at the MacLaren Children’s Center in El Monte.

Investigators working with the state Department of Fish and Game were unable to locate a Herrera’s Fishing Club. “I even checked my sources in Mexico to see if it was down there,” Carroll said.

The medal was apparently part of a baptismal ceremony, Carroll said, but detectives have been unable to locate any Lake Beseda. Dental charts and fingerprints were sent to Sacramento to be compared with those on file with the state Department of Justice, but the process has not been completed.

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Checking on Wheelchair

The wheelchair was traced to a New York dealer whom investigators declined to identify. Carroll said the dealer sold the chair about nine years ago and was checking his records in an effort to identify the purchaser.

The detective does not believe the wheelchair will prove to be a valuable clue, however, because it was manufactured for an adult and was probably resold several times before it was purchased for the abandoned boy.

Trumbo said the boy was left near one of two houses on his five-acre facility when nobody was around.

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“We were all at the other house at the time,” Trumbo said. “We heard dogs barking at about 4 o’clock but we were expecting company and figured that’s what it was.”

When the boy was found, “He wasn’t crying or anything,” Trumbo said. “He appeared to be oblivious to what was going on.”

Saw Car on Highway

Trumbo said he pushed the wheelchair into the house and went back outside “to see if I could find if somebody left a note or something” when he spotted a tan, compact car he had seen earlier, parked nearby, making a U-turn on the highway in front of his property. Trumbo said he could not see the license plate or tell how many people were in the car because it was too far away.

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The boy appeared healthy, Trumbo said, although his feet turn inward and his right leg is deformed.

“We had a ball and he would reach down and roll it back and forth,” Trumbo said. The television was turned to the Disney Channel, Trumbo said, and the boy laughed at the cartoon characters displayed on the screen.

“He hollered like he knew who they were,” Trumbo said. “He was happy.”


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