On a January afternoon in 1996, a custodian made a gruesome discovery in a University of Georgia dormitory bathroom: the body of a lifeless newborn baby.
The boy, given the name Jonathan Foundling, had been stabbed multiple times, according to investigators. He likely had taken a few breaths before being killed in the basement of the Oglethorpe House.
It was a heartbreaking case that gripped the campus and beyond. Who could have given birth and likely killed the baby without anyone hearing or seeing it? Investigators were unable to find those answers in the months and years that followed.
But due to advances in DNA technology, UGA police were able to solve the mystery earlier this month. While it brings closure to the case, investigators said they will never know how Kathryn Anne Grant hid her pregnancy and killed her child. Grant died by suicide in 2004.
“Our ability to close the case represents an important development and was facilitated by the combined efforts of two generations of police officers and detectives: those who responded directly after the initial event and investigated it then, and the follow-up efforts of detectives in the intervening decades — and especially over the last two years,” UGA police Chief P. Daniel Silk said in a statement. ”In the end, the technology that was needed to solve the case did not exist in 1996, but there is no doubt that the exhaustive groundwork performed by the original investigative team was vital to bringing about this conclusion.”
Credit: JOHN SPINK
Credit: JOHN SPINK
A never-ending desire to solve the case, coupled with a Texas lab’s expertise, finally closed it. That same Texas lab was also crucial in solving another metro Atlanta case.
More than 300 people attended the baby’s funeral in Athens. UGA officers served as pall bearers. But in September 1996, a police major said there was still no information on the baby’s mother.
“We feel like there’s one or two people out there who know about this, someone whose conscience will start bothering them,” said Maj. Jimmy Williamson, who later became chief of the campus police department.
In 2007, Williamson again spoke about the case remaining unsolved.
“Most homicide cases you can work back from family and friends to narrow it down to a suspect, and we didn’t have that,” he said. “This baby was alive and breathing for such a short time, it could have been as little as 10 minutes to less than an hour.”
Over the years, there had been some tips and possible fingerprint matches that took investigators as far away as California, according to the police file.
In 2021, a private Texas lab that specializes in DNA testing technology agreed to examine blood samples collected from the crime scene. The lab’s work gave investigators a major break: the DNA was a likely match for two brothers, and one was very likely the father.
Othram, located in The Woodlands, Texas, is a lab that only works with law enforcement agencies and must be willing to take on cases. The lab’s motto is “Forensics and justice for all.” By the time UGA police reached out to the lab, Othram had already been involved in other Georgia cases.
Earlier this week, DeKalb County investigators announced that a cold case involving the remains of a woman found in 1993 had been positively identified with help from Othram.
The company agreed to work on the UGA case, and investigators sent two blood samples: one from the mother’s placenta and the other from the baby. Within months, the lab identified the two brothers who were likely related to the newborn.
One brother told investigators he had a sexual relationship with a woman while attending UGA in 1995, but he couldn’t remember her full name, according to the police report. He thought her last name had been Grant.
University officials were able to confirm a woman named Kathryn Grant had been a UGA student from 1994-96 and had lived in O-house when the baby’s body was found. Her grades had slipped and she dropped some classes in the fall of 1995, the registrar’s office told investigators.
“The quarters in which her grades dropped would coincide with when she would have become pregnant and when the baby was born if she were the mother,” the police report states.
But even with her name, investigators wouldn’t be able to question Grant. In July 2004, she died from suicide. Her brother’s name appeared in an obituary, giving investigators another clue.
Grant’s brother had no knowledge of his sister’s possible pregnancy, he told investigators. But DNA testing confirmed he was a direct relative to the newborn, police said. After more than 27 years, the baby’s mother had been identified.
“While I recognize the significance of closing this case, I have to simultaneously acknowledge the heartbreaking nature of the tragedy that took place,” Silk said. “I think it’s absolutely vital not to lose sight of that. I was a patrol officer in Athens when this occurred in 1996. I am keenly aware of the attention the case generated over the years, and I have been moved by the outpouring of concern and care from the UGA community and beyond.”
If you or someone you know is pregnant, healthcare is available:
The Georgia Department of Public Health offers helpful tips and a database of health clinics. For more information, email Womenshealth@dph.ga.gov or visit the website at https://dph.georgia.gov/pregnancy-resources
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