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Dead baby found in Mississippi River backwaters

A dead baby was found Monday floating in the water at Prairie Island Marina, according to the Goodhue County sheriff's department.

Authorities have not yet released information regarding the sex of the child or how long it was floating in Sturgeon Lake, though it appears the baby was a newborn.

"We'll know more after the autopsy," said Pat Thompson, captain of the sheriff's department investigation unit. "We don't know any details on how the baby died or where."

The Regional Medical Examiner's Office in Hastings is performing an autopsy.

Two marina employees found the body around 12:30 p.m. while attempting to clean boat slips near the marina's Dock C, Thompson said.

They immediately called the Prairie Island Police Department. The sheriff's office was called to the scene at 12:44 p.m.

Thompson said the body was found close to a slip along with some debris. Sturgeon Lake is not within the Mississippi River's main channel but Thompson said the current is "significant" at this time of year.

This is the third time in eight years a child has been found dead in area waters.

A baby girl -- umbilical cord still attached -- was discovered in 1999 near Red Wing's Small Boat Harbor. To this day, authorities have not determined when or where the baby was born or who the child's parents are.

Four years later, a male baby was found in the water near the Methodist camp in Florence Township. Authorities were also unable to solve that case.

Thompson, on scene in 1999 and 2003 to help retrieve those bodies, said the public's help will be critical in piecing together the most recent case.

"We might be getting a little ahead of ourselves because we haven't identified a time of death, but we need to identify any potential individuals who are no longer pregnant or no longer with a baby," said Thompson, noting that any suspicious activity in the area should also be reported.

Thompson would not comment on whether the child found Monday still had its umbilical cord.

Chief Deputy Scott McNurlin said solving cases where a body is found in the water can be difficult because the origin of the crime could be anywhere.

"If we can nail the origin down, we'll be better off," McNurlin said. "They longer they're in the water, the harder it can be."

McNurlin said officials are keeping their fingers crossed that DNA will be able to provide some solid leads. There are currently no suspects, he said.

Anyone with information regarding this case can call the sheriff's department at (651) 385-3155 or the anonymous tip line at (866) 887-HELP or (651) 267-2699.