Stewart Hinkle found more than he bargained for yesterday while searching for lost golf balls near the 10th hole of a city course: a freshly dug grave that he thought contained a small child.
It was the small green wooden cross placed over the grave that caused concern.
Written on the left cross-bar were the words: "Name: My baby." At the bottom of the post, it said: "Gone, but not forgotten." On the right side, it simply said, "Born 1995, died 10-10-95."
Police and homicide detectives -- some riding in golf carts -- converged a few yards behind the 10th green of Carroll Park Municipal Golf Course about 9:15 a.m. in the 2100 block of Washington Blvd.
Two hours later, a medical examiner arrived and turned over the loose dirt with a shovel -- and found a freshly buried cat.
"At first, I thought it was a newborn baby," said Mr. Hinkle, 52, who works at the golf course as a marshal. "That's why we called police. I was just glad to hear it was a cat. It was shocking. It's something that you very seldom see."
The sight of police cars and the medical examiner's van racing down a fairway had golfers talking. Officers closed the 10th hole for about two hours, but not before two men started to play the par 4, 286-yard hole.
Before they fired their second shots to the green, one police officer was heard yelling into his radio: "It's a crime scene. Let's close this hole down."
The coroner dug up the 8-inch-deep grave, in woods about 15 feet behind the green, and retrieved a small box. The body of a small gray cat with black stripes was inside, wrapped in a blanket.
Police returned the dead animal to its final resting place, leaving open the mystery of who buried the animal there and why.
"I guess it's just an odd spot and out of the way, and they thought nobody would mess with it," Mr. Hinkle said.