Police are trying to identify a baby after the child's body was found near the University of Central Missouri campus in Warrensburg.
Investigators say the body was found at Pertle Springs, a 300-acre recreational area owned by the university.
University spokesperson Jeff Murphy said two biology students found the baby's body about 4 p.m. Tuesday near some burned trash inside a cave on the property.
The university's newspaper reports the students were doing research inside the cave.
"She's been researching the wintering of snakes in this cave and she was just getting a year's worth of data," said Andy Lyons, the managing editor of the campus newspaper and a friend of both students.
They filed a police report on Feb. 17 because someone broke the lock on the cave, or research area, and they found trash and other signs of vandalism.
"They just took a statement from her. She showed them some pictures on her phone. They just assumed it was burnt trash," Lyons said.
On Tuesday, they returned to the cave for what was supposed to be a routine check for research. But instead the two students noticed an awful smell and made a gruesome discovery. While taking a closer look at the trash, the students found the body of a baby, burned and discarded.
"He told me he thought it was a doll until he squeezed the foot and realized it was human tissue," Lyons said.
Once they realized it was in fact a child's body, they called 911.
Lyons says his friends are having a difficult time.
"She told me she didn't want to relive it all, she was going to seek counseling on campus. Try to move past it," he said.
"Pertle Springs is a public recreation area that is owned by the university. It is probably about a mile south of the main campus. It used to be a popular resort area at the turn of the century," Murphy said. "It now is an area where it has trails, lakes, canoeing, a golf course. A place where some of our students and the public use that facility. Many people from the public use that facility as well."
The exact age of the child and cause of death have not been released.
An autopsy was conducted Wednesday. Officials determined that the infant was white.
To help in the investigation, authorities are interested in learning about a near full-term pregnant woman who planned to give birth sometime in the February to early March time-frame and may have had suspicious circumstances surrounding the birth.
"Certainly it is unsettling. Any time there is an incident like this anywhere, it is very unsettling to the community and university as well," Murphy said. "I'm a long-time member of the community and this is certainly something that doesn't happen in Warrensburg very often. It's very rare and naturally people want to know what happened, and why, and they will want to see the investigation go well to find closure."
News spread quickly around the University of Central Missouri campus.
"It's kind of freaky. Are they from here, did they put the baby there and why would someone do something like that?" said student Halie Kimmel.
Law enforcement is investigating and anyone with information that may help is asked to contact the university's department of public safety at 660-543-4123.
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