The red rose is still visible between the hands of a young girl buried 145 years ago in a coffin that was recently discovered underneath a San Francisco house.
Construction workers were remodeling Ericka Karner’s childhood home in the Richmond District when they hit the lead and bronze coffin buried underneath the concrete garage.
The three-foot casket’s two windows revealed the perfectly preserved skin and long blonde hair of the girl, who is believed to have died when she was three years old.
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Construction workers found this 145-year-old lead and bronze coffin of a young blonde girl buried under a San Francisco home they were remodeling earlier this month
The casket’s two windows revealed the perfectly preserved skin and long blonde hair of the girl, who is believed to have died when she was three years old
Construction worker Kevin Boylan told KTVU: ‘All the hair was still there. The nails were there. There were flowers – roses, still on the child’s body. It was a sight to see.’
It is believed the girl was one of the 30,000 people who were buried in the city’s Odd Fellows Cemetery, which was active for 30 years before it was forced to shut in 1890.
The bodies were moved to a Colma burial plot in the 1930s to allow for redevelopment – but the little girl in the long white dress with lavender flowers in her hair was left behind.
There were no markings on the purple velvet-lined coffin to identify the child, who is now being called Miranda – a name picked by Karner’s two daughters – after she was discovered on May 9.
But Karner was soon surprised to find out from the medical examiner’s office that the child was now her responsibility.
The city refused to take custody of Miranda, but the problems only continued when Karner tried to have the girl reburied.
Karner was told she needed a death certificate to obtain a burial permit for the girl. A Colma undertaker was willing to take the body – for a cool $7,000.
An East Bay archaeological company’s price was even steeper at $22,000.
Meanwhile, Miranda’s body was deteriorating inside her coffin in Karner’s backyard because the seal was broken after the coroner’s superior instructed him to open the casket.
‘It didn’t seem right,’ Karner told the San Francisco Chronicle. ‘The city decided to move all these bodies 100 years ago, and they should stand behind their decision.’
Karner, who is currently living in Idaho with her family while the house is remodeled, said she felt awful as a mother thinking of the little girl lying alone in her backyard.
She considered the girl ‘part of her family now’.
City Hall finally put Karner in touch with someone who could help, connecting her to the Garden of Innocence, an organization that provides burials for unidentified children.
Founder Elissa Davey, who was able to secure the funds needed to have the coffin picked up and temporarily stored in a mortuary refrigerator in Fresno, said they needed to do the ‘right thing’.
‘That girl was somebody’s child,’ she said. ‘We had to pick her up.’
‘If people find out she’s lying at a construction site with no one around at night, you can bet somebody is going to steal her. People into the macabre. Into witchcraft.
‘I wanted her out of there.’
It was obvious to Davey that Miranda’s parents loved her very much.
‘Just by looking at the way they dressed her,’ she wrote. ‘Their sorrow was great. We will love her too.’
Construction workers were remodeling Ericka Karner’s childhood home (pictured) in the Richmond District when they made the discovery
It is believed the girl was one of the 30,000 people who were buried in the city’s Odd Fellows Cemetery, which was shut in 1890. The bodies were moved to allow for redevelopment
Davey, a genealogist, has been saving forgotten children since 1998, when she read a story about a baby boy who died after he was dumped in a trash can at a college campus.
A month later, the boy was still on her mind. She called up the county coroner, who told her the boy was headed for an unmarked grave if he was not claimed.
Davey asked what she could do and the coroner replied she could lay claim to the boy, as long as she proved to him she had a ‘dignified place’ to lay the child to rest, according to Inside Edition.
Since that day, Davey and Garden of Innocence has provided memorial services to nearly 300 unclaimed children.
The children are all given names before they are buried with a blanket, soft toy and personalized poem in a wooden casket fitted with lace, made by the Boy Scouts.
Services are sometimes attended by up to 300 people, including military members, policemen and even parents who have lost children of their own.
‘We have become a place where people find closure,’ Davey told the show.
And it is closure Davey wants for Miranda.
She hopes to find out Miranda’s true identify and rebury her this summer at the Greenlawn Cemetery in Colma if the organization can receive a burial permit.
And Davey has hired her niece to build a second maple coffin that will be large enough to hold Miranda in the casket where she was originally laid to rest.
‘I don’t want her disturbed anymore,’ Davey said. ‘She’s been disturbed enough.’