“Mill Hill Road, back in 1982, was a well-traveled road. It was essentially the primary road between Williamstown and Northfield. That road was known, at the time, for people discarding appliances and animal carcasses,” said Det. Sergeant Seth Richardson, Vermont State Police Major Crime Unit.
On April 1, 1982, in Northfield, Vermont four schoolchildren were waiting for their bus when they saw a family dog dragging a garbage bag.
“They discovered an infant child wrapped in a bath towel concealed in a plastic bag, the neighbor’s dog actually discovered it and the kid’s curiosity went and checked the bag and discovered the remains of a human,” said Det. Sergeant Richardson.
No one knew the infant, but the community wished they did… as they felt the pain he must’ve endured.
The baby became a John Doe and was only hours old when his life ended abruptly.
“The umbilical cord was still attached and the child did have a clubbed foot in fact on both of his feet,” said Det. Sergeant Richardson.
The autopsy revealed baby boy Doe was born alive and biologically normal.
“We determined that the child was alive and there are no indications that the death was caused by anything other than exposure to the elements,” said Det. Sergeant Richardson.
A local reverend, Frank Wisner III named the baby and arranged a funeral as well as resting place.
“People know this as the baby boy Doe case or baby John Doe and something that hasn’t been reported a lot that I think is important to share is that he was given a name. There was a local reverend in Northfield in 1982 who paid for the baby’s funeral and gave him the name Matthew Isaac,” said VSP Cold Case Specialist, Heather Gibbs.
According to the Bennington Banner, Reverend Frank Wisner III named the baby Matthew Isaac because in the Bible Matthew means gift of God and Isaac was the son taken to be sacrificed by Abraham.
Over 80 people attended Matthew Isaac’s funeral, which consisted of police and members of the community.
Vermont State Police were hoping the parents of Matthew Isaac would show at his funeral, but sadly their identities remain unknown.
“There really wasn’t a lot of evidence other than what we have talked about. We’ve talked about a plastic bag, a bath towel, and the child itself. Other than that there wasn’t a whole lot of evidence,” said Det. Sergeant Richardson.
At the time of the crime, DNA testing was still in early and developing stages.
Fortunately in 1982, police were able to collect and preserve what they did find at the scene.
In July 2020, new technology emerged making detectives hopeful.
Vermont State Police Cold Case Specialist, Heather Gibbs, says “It became very clear that when genetic genealogy was all over the news as something new this would be something that we could use in the baby boy Doe case.”
Today, Vermont State Police are partnering with Parabon Nanolabs to conduct genetic genealogy testing using Matthew Isaac’s DNA.
“They have DNA from the victim to that they are using to conduct investigative genetic genealogy. They are trying to find family members of the victim to match him. In the end to ultimately help us find who his parents might be or to give us ideas of who else we may be able to interview to find out more about this case,” said Gibbs.
Matthew Isaac’s case is the first unsolved homicide in Vermont participating in genealogy testing.
With the help of cold case specialists who are civilian citizens, Vermont State Police Major Crimes Unit is able to collaborate on unsolved cases.
“We work along with detectives and in the Major Crime Unit to develop investigative strategies, prioritize persons of interest within each case. It starts by locating the case files and materials. we all have different ideas and different ways of looking at things and we have different questions, different ideas… we are one more member of the team just to help try and work on these cases,” said Gibbs.
If you have any information regarding this case please contact the Vermont State Police or submit a tip anonymously by texting VTIPS to 274637 (CRIMES).