CONCORD, N.H. – A judge has ordered a New Hampshire man to lay an unusual family heirloom to rest: a mummified baby that has been passed down for generations.
Judge Richard Hampe said the baby known as "Baby John" belonging to Charles Peavey's family must be buried because there is no DNA evidence proving kinship.
Peavey said Wednesday his family is disappointed, but will not appeal the decision.
"I'm just washing my hands of it," Peavey told the Concord Monitor for its Thursday editions. "I'm disappointed it came to this."
The mummy had been on display on a bureau in Peavey's home until police confiscated Baby John last year. Relatives and friends treated the desiccated infant as a family member, giving it cards during holidays and a dried fish as a pet. Authorities learned of the mummy's existence after Peavey's niece mentioned to day care staffers that her uncle kept a dead baby at his house.
Peavey said his family believes the mummy is the stillborn child of a great-great uncle.
Testing by the state concluded the baby died of natural causes shortly after its birth and confirmed the remains were decades old, but did not determine the mummy's age or origin. Peavey said he cannot afford DNA testing, and the state will not release the remains unless there is proof of a family relationship.
"It's one of the few things from our family past that we have left," Peavey had written in a petition to the court. "And when I pass on, I was looking forward to passing it on to another family member, to keep some of the history for future family members."
In court, prosecutor Richard Head raised concerns about the family's treatment of the mummy if it were returned, pointing to Peavey's page on the social networking site MySpace that opens with the "The Addams Family" theme song and makes joking references to Baby John, including a photo of a small crypt and a suggestion that it may hold the remains of Baby John's sister.
Peavey said the page was created as a joke by his niece and he was going to ask her to take it down.
"I do not think this is a joke. I've never treated him like a joke. No weirdness was going on," he said.