On the top shelf inside a locked, unassuming storage closet at the Horry County Coroner’s Office, there are 55 small white cardboard boxes sitting with names scribbled on the side facing outward.
Inside each box are the ashes of a person who hadn’t been claimed by a family member for burial. There’s also the body of an unidentified woman, which remains in refrigerated storage after she was found dead on the beach in Myrtle Beach in 2013.
But there’s one box missing from that shelf that still worries Horry County Coroner Robert Edge.
That little box is buried at Hillcrest Cemetery and belongs to an infant dubbed Baby Boy Horry.
“We’ve never had a child abandoned that way where we weren’t able to find out who the parents were,” Edge said, his voice heavy with regret. “It’s sad this child didn’t get to enjoy life like the rest of us do.”
Through donations from local businesses and area residents, Edge was able to have the baby buried in a plot at the cemetery and annually on the anniversary of his death they hold a memorial service.
“We still want to keep his memory alive with the hope somebody will come forward with some information,” Edge said.
This year, the service is 1 p.m. Dec. 4 at the grave inside the cemetery, which is located across from Coastal Carolina University along S.C. 544.
Unlike the other remains that sit boxed up on that shelf, the infant’s death continues to weigh on Edge, who has been serving as the county’s coroner since 1989.
“It’s still a mystery and will be a mystery as to why she didn’t take the child somewhere,” Edge said and referred to South Carolina’s Daniel’s Law, which is a law that allows someone to leave an unharmed newborn at a hospital, fire station, church or police station without any questions from authorities.
An autopsy showed the baby was viable and would have survived if he had received routine medial care after his birth, Edge said.
“He wasn’t given a chance,” Edge said. “I’m sure there are a lot of people who would have adopted him and taken him in if they could have.”
Horry County police investigated the infant being found dead on Dec. 4, 2008, inside a blue-and-white Bath and Body Works bag in a ditch on Meabrook Drive, which is off S.C. 544, Lt. Robert Kegler said.
The bag in which the baby was found was a limited-edition, white-and-blue canvas bag from Bath and Body Works and was sold at the store in August 2008 as a promotion, Kegler said.
Utility workers in the area found the baby in the bag and reported the incident. Police developed a DNA profile for the newborn and can match that to the parents, if they are ever found, Kegler said.
The case remains open and under investigation, but police do not have any new information about the baby, he said.
Another open case in Myrtle Beach is that of an unidentified woman, who was found dead May 25, 2013, on the beach near 24th Avenue South, authorities said.
“It’s unusual,” Myrtle Beach police Capt. David Knipes said of the woman not being claimed or identified. “We put it out everywhere to every national, international group and no one has come forward. Without having any identification on her or knowing where she’s from, it’s difficult.”
The woman is described as white, about 170 to 185 pounds, between 5 foot 3 inches to 5 foot 6 inches tall, and authorities estimate her age is between late 40s and mid to late 50s, Knipes said. She had reddish blonde hair.
She also had a tattoo on her left ankle that was about three inches in circumference, Knipes said. The tattoo depicts a beach and ocean scene with a dolphin at the top. It is colorful with bright yellow, red and orange in it.
“It was just like she was dropped here out of nowhere,” Edge said of the woman’s case. “We had hopes someone would show up and want to claim her or be searching for her.”
The case is the first such case in which a person has remain unidentified for Myrtle Beach police, Knipes said.
In fact, such cases are rare on the Grand Strand.
Paulette Radcliffe, Georgetown County Deputy Coroner, said her county doesn’t have any open cases like that, and she doesn’t recall ever having an unidentified person.
As for those unclaimed, they have been identified, but other circumstances keep their ashes stored at the Horry County Coroner’s office, Edge said.
“They are people we could not find a family member for, or some we found family members and they said ‘you keep them,’ and some of them were homeless without anyone,” Edge said.
Officials work with local funeral homes for discounted cremations and they also have worked with veterans’ organizations to have those who served in the military buried properly.
“We have had some veterans unclaimed and we had them buried in the National Cemetery in Florence and Beaufort,” Edge said.
In those cases, Edge said he’s glad to be able to give the person a proper burial because they served our country.
Typically, a person’s body is kept refrigerated for 30 days or longer as space will allow before they are cremated, Edge said. The coroner’s office tries to track the person and contacts their previous addresses and potential relatives with the hope of finding someone to claim them.
In the near future, Edge said he hopes to get approval for a burial site for the unclaimed remains.
“I’ve had hopes that somebody would claim them,” Edge said.
Anyone with information about Baby Boy Horry can call Horry County police anonymously at 915-TIPS.
Anyone with information about the woman can call Myrtle Beach police at 918-1382.