Balloon released in Iowa found in SC, and message travels along - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Balloon released in Iowa found in SC, and message travels along with it

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A mysterious note tied to a balloon drops in the middle of a corn field in Cameron.

It could have easily been mistaken for a piece of trash, but the message it carried touched hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

This is truly the kind of story you can't make up. In fact, WIS spent much of our investigation  tracking down all the people involved in this case across three different states. 

A message delivered by the winds was found in November by Ginger Myer Howe and her family.

The note read: "Happy birthday baby dragonfly. Alissa was murdered at 16 months old, and her killer remains free. It says baby Alissa's Iowa Army.

It didn't take long to trace that note to the Baker family in Dunlap, Iowa, and the story behind the tragic life and death of 16-month-old baby Alissa Guernsey.

"You don't know the person at all, you've never seen them, you've never met them but yet you know what they went through, you know the pain they went through," said Colton Baker.

Alissa died in 2009 from what her family and court documents indicate was the result of horrific abuse at the hands of her caretaker, Christy Shaffer. Now thousands from across the country who consider themselves part of Alissa's Army call for justice in her case.

"She pled guilty to a class B neglect felony charge- which doesn't even result in the child dying," said child welfare advocate Bernadine Sands Buccafuri. "She came back after 77 days and he released her, so that's what has people so outraged"

"I think she took a life, and I think she needs to go to prison for life," said Baker.

Although he never met her, Baker and his family came across Alissa's story almost a year ago.  On Alissa's birthday, November 2nd, his brother released the balloon.  It was one of about 22- that would be found a week later in South Carolina.

WIS Meteorologist John Farley says its nearly impossible that a regular balloon would travel more than 1200 miles from Iowa to South Carolina.

"Most of the time they're going to pop fairly quickly after you release them," said Farley. "They go up, they pop and they fall down maybe 10, 15 miles away."

"In order for this balloon to have gotten here, it would have had to been under inflated, it would have to get high enough into the atmosphere that it would get caught by some very strong winds, and remember the helium is leaking, so it does this for maybe 12 hours and then it falls back to the earth," he said.

"I looked at the charts and that night there were winds in the atmosphere going more than 100 miles an hour, so you'd have to be going north of 1000 miles in 12 hours to get to something like that," said Farley.

"I will follow this case forever," said Baker. "If nothing happens, I will keep following it probably until the day I die- if its still going, which I hope its not.  I hope they do find justice for her."

"There's been people who've changed their careers and gone into social work," said Sands-Buccafuri. "We hear these stories all the time. If one child can be saved from Alissa's story, then that's her legacy."

And for Ginger, who still stalks these woods listening and searching, this note has been a gift. An invitation to remember and fight for a life lost too soon.

"Baby dragonfly brought it here," she said.

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