Fresno Cemetery site of new "Garden of Innocence"

FRESNO, Calif.

"John Doe, 7-6-85, John Doe 6-15-85, Peter Reyes, Clark Keefer, Baby Girl Ouch, just some of the many names on the mass grave at the Fresno County Cemetery. Men, women and children whose bodies were unclaimed by their families. Now at least the babies will be placed in more pleasant surroundings.

Deputy Fresno County Coroner Kelly Weisel told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday: "We do have 16 abandoned children in our facility, these children have been cremated. We're hoping in about a month we will have their services taken care of and they will have a dignified burial. "

The burials will take place in a green and peaceful place donated by Fresno's Mountain View Cemetery. An organization called Garden of Innocence has been setting up burial places like this all over the state.

Founder Elissa Davey told the Board, "Hopefully every child in the future that's abandoned in your county will be in the same spot and they will be on the same lawn so that no child will be scattered with the indigent programs or out in a potter's field."

The volunteer, nonprofit group will provide cremation and funeral services for infants and children up to 8 years of age. Though most will be still born babies. The remains will be placed in small wooden boxes, in tiny individual plots. Unlike the mass graves, now used.

"They will have their own personal space here in Fresno County." Davey said.

It's an emotional issue that affected all of the members of the Board of Supervisors.

"I know that somewhere along the way those abandoned children have given love to someone, and someone has given love to them and by this you are showing a greater love," Phil Larson said. "I just want to commend you and thank you very much."

The Fresno County Coroner's Office takes in about five unclaimed usually premature infant remains every year, as compared to about one hundred unclaimed adult bodies. The cremated remains of adults will continue to be placed in a mass grave at the Fresno County Cemetery.

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