Decades after finding an abandoned baby, officer makes remarkable discovery

South Bend, Indiana — Gene Eyster, a retired police lieutenant, cannot drive past one specific apartment complex here without reliving that strange day 24 years ago.

“That was one of the strangest calls I think I’ve ever had: ‘We have a found baby in a box,'” Eyster, a 47-year veteran of the department, told CBS News. “You always wonder, what happened?”

On Dec. 22, 2000, a newborn was found abandoned in a common hallway. For Eyster, the case of the “Baby Boy Doe,” swaddled in cardboard and blankets, didn’t end after the child got to the hospital.

“I went back with a teddy bear,” Eyster said. “Just a symbol to let everyone that walked past know that he was cared about.”

For more than two decades, Eyster wondered what became of that boy. Unfortunately, records were sealed so there was no way to find out.

That was until just a few weeks ago, when Eyster got a phone call from a fellow officer, who asked Eyster if remembered the case of the baby left in the carboard box. 

“And he (the officer) said, ‘he’s (the baby) sitting next to me, he’s my rookie,'” Eyster recounted.  

The rookie in question was Matthew Hegedus-Stewart, the baby in the box. After his rescue, he was placed for adoption. He always knew he had been left in a box, but only connected the dots to Eyster after joining the department.

Today, Hegedus-Stewart wears the same uniform Eyster did and patrols the same neighborhood.

“Full circle moment,” Hegedus-Stewart said. “That hit home. I can only imagine from his point of view.”

He really can’t imagine. Because what to Hegedus-Stewart may feel like a coincidence, to Eyster feels divined. Their reunion and their new friendship came just a few months after Eyster’s only son, Nick, died unexpectedly at the age of 36.

“So the timing couldn’t have been any better, it helped to fill a void that I’ve had to deal with,” Eyster said.

Twenty-four years ago, Eyster was called to be there for a child in need.  Now, the child is set to return the favor.  And whether it’s a coincidence or not, the result is undeniably great police work.

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