It will be 5 years this Labor Day since an area family made a shocking discovery on the Mississippi River.
The body of a newborn baby girl was found in a bag, floating on the river south of Winona. To this day, the case remains unsolved.
Sharon Forst can't help but think about that day five years ago. "It was Labor Day weekend, my husband, myself and our two sons taking advantage of the last of summer."
The Forst Family was boating on the river, just north of the Trempealeau Dam, when they made a discovery that sticks with them to this day.
"My younger son said, 'there's a bag in the river' and I said "ah, just leave it" and he said 'no we should not leave trash in the river' so we maneuvered the boat over to pick it up."
Inside the canvas bag floating on the main channel of the river was a newborn baby girl. "He said 'mom, there's a baby here' and I said 'Josh, that's not even funny' and I turned and looked at him and I could see by his face, it was something more that he wasn't being funny. I think our first thought was, 'is she still alive? or wasn't she? I tried to do CPR. It was pretty clear she was gone."
Current Winona County Sheriff Ron Ganrude was chief deputy at the time and responded to the call.
"When I got to the scene it was surprising obviously, never been involved in anything like that before," said Sheriff Ganrude.
Investigators had little to go on from the beginning, however, the contents of the bag did provide a few leads.
The baby was partially wrapped in a green t-shirt featuring an image that appears to be a slice of bread. The canvas bag has the word of the Mexican resort town, Manzanilla, on the outside. There was also a bracelet and some distinct angel figurines found inside the bag. It's why the baby girl is known as today as "baby Angel."
"We did get a number of calls and we talked to a lot of people, talked to a lot of women, requested DNA from a lot of people and they all submitted to it, but just have not turned up the lead we need yet," said Sheriff Ganrude.
He says although few and far between, they still get some tips on the case five years later. "We're putting this on Crime Stoppers again where we're looking for any and all information and we'll follow up on it. Even today, this year, we've gotten a couple of tips and we've followed up on them, they haven't led anywhere, but we'll continue to work the case. With DNA and all the things that are available to us to use and the fact that people, somebody knows something and eventually someone will tell us what happened."
While Sharon wonders what a 5-year-old baby Angel would look like today, she just hopes some type of closure can come soon.
"It's to give closure to the family that needs it and also for that little girl to have a last name. I think closure is, to move forward in life sometimes you have to close off the past and that's got to be lingering in their hearts."
Former Winona Co. Sheriff Dave Brand was heavily involved in trying to solve this case before he retired. He even coordinated a funeral and burial for baby Angel in 2012. He still actively checks in on the case and gets updates from the current sheriff.
There will be a memorial service for baby Angel on Monday, Sept. 5th at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Winona beginning at 4:00 p.m. The service is for anyone wishing to pay their respects.
If you have any information on the case, you're asked to contact the Winona County Sheriff's Office Tip Line at (507) 457-6530.