A child’s cremated remains were found in a vehicle. Manatee Sheriff’s Office found the mom

From Texas to Florida and soon back to Texas, an infant’s remains will be returned to the child’s mother after they were found inside a vehicle purchased by a local resident and sheriff’s office officials worked to find her.

Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies Jeremy Bass and Marc Newman and sheriff’s office employee Sandra Dickerman were recently recognized as employee and deputies of the month for their work to reunite the found remains with the child’s mother in Texas.

For those involved, it was a memorable day at work.

Bass took the call that started the search. On Jan. 23, a citizen reported that they found a woman’s purse in the trunk of a vehicle they had recently purchased and had delivered from Texas.

It’s not uncommon, Bass said, to get calls of property found, but this one stood out.

Bass took the report and, along with Deputy Newman, took inventory of the items in the purse.

“I glanced over and seen what it contained and it kind of piqued my interest and (I was) kind of surprised by it,” Newman said.

Inside, they found a container holding cremated remains. Other items inside the purse — including a baby picture, hospital bands and a candle — led the deputies to believe the remains were those of an infant child dated 2013.

“I knew this is something that obviously the mother is going to want back, and we need to find out where this belongs,” Bass said.

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After a citizen reported finding a purse inside a vehicle purchased from Texas, deputies knew they had to find the rightful owner. Items found inside the purse included cremated remains of a child and a candle. The sheriff’s office worked to find the mother of the child and will be returning the items to her. Manatee County Sheriff's Office

As a parent himself, Newman said he felt a sense of urgency to return the items to the rightful owner.

The deputies found and quickly reached out to the funeral home that did the cremation, hoping to find the child’s parents.

Meanwhile, Newman asked Dickerman for help. She searched social media and law enforcement investigative tools and found the mother within 24 hours.

Newman then asked the Guadalupe Sheriff’s Office in Texas for its help in finding her. When Texas deputies checked, no one was home.

But Dickerman found a phone number for the mother so she and Newman called her to tell her they found the purse and the important contents inside.

“She was working, she was really busy, she couldn’t really talk. But she was excited that we were going to be returning her belongings,” Dickerman said.

Newman said he was relieved when they realized they found the mother.

“It feels good to know that this mother’s going to be reunited with her baby. I’m sure she’s probably been worried about it,” Bass said.

The mother’s vehicle was involved in a crash in June 2018 and was totaled out by her insurance company, she told Dickerman. She thought she could not get her belongings back from the car after it was taken to the scrapyard. The woman had been separated from the purse and the items inside since the crash.

“Yes, we arrest people, yes we enforce laws, but we’re human, too. And when you see something like this, you get that human connection. And you think, ‘Well, what if this was me? What if these were my parents?’ ” Newman said.

“I help when I can, we do what we can do,” Bass said.

Arrangements were made so the remains and the mother’s purse could be shipped back to her.

“This could have been handled like a typical found property report, but they made extraordinary efforts to find the mother so she could get her baby’s remains back, which for a parent is invaluable and precious,” Sheriff Rick Wells said in a news release.

“A lot of people hear negative things about police officers and cops and they don’t realize the stuff that we do deal with and the good stuff we actually do,” Bass said.

Sara Nealeigh covers what’s happening in the cities of Bradenton and Palmetto, Florida for the Bradenton Herald. She previously covered breaking news for the Herald after moving to Florida from Ohio in 2016.