Local News

South Bend Police Recount "Eyster" Blessing

(South Bend, IN) - When South Bend Police Lieutenant Gene Eyster retired five years ago, he left a lot of memories in the rearview mirror.


In December of 2000, Eyster, who at the time was a sergeant in the Major Crimes Unit, was called in on a case involving an abandoned infant. Residents at the Park Jefferson Apartments on South Bend’s northeast side had discovered a newborn baby in the hallway of one of the apartment buildings. The tiny boy was wrapped in blankets and a flannel shirt in a cardboard box.


As the baby was cared for at a local hospital, Eyster began his investigation. His first order of business was to give the boy a little normalcy. Word of “Baby Boy Doe” was spreading quickly, but Eyster felt he deserved a real name. Being so close to Christmas, he started calling the foundling “Baby Jesus.” Next, as a good Magi will do, he took Jesus a gift: a teddy bear for his hospital crib.


Following tips, Eyster was able to track down the parents, and the mother was charged with neglect. Little “Jesus” was adopted, and the case was closed.


But it reopened in a very special and unexpected way recently.


Two weeks ago, Eyster received a phone call from current South Bend Police Officer Josh Morgan. Morgan had taken on a new officer for training. The 23-year-old rookie told Morgan that he had been found in a cardboard box on the northeast side.


It was “Baby Jesus.”


Shortly after, Eyster met the young man, now known as Officer Matthew Hegedus-Stewart. Neither recognized the other, of course, but there was a certain bond between them, now made stronger through the brotherhood of law enforcement. The two sifted through case documents, including over a dozen photos of a two-day-old Officer Hegedus-Stewart at the hospital. Neither he nor his family had ever seen the photos.


Following the meeting, Eyster posted his admiration for the young officer on Facebook: “Words cannot express how inspiring it was to meet this young man and to hear of the accomplishments he has achieved given his turbulent beginnings. Matt should be very proud of himself as should his adoptive parents Jack Stewart and Mary Ellen Hegedus. To coin a phrase agreed to by many, ‘you raised a fine young man.’”


Eyster retired in 2019 after 47 years of service. Many cases, many faces, facts, and figures. But he always wondered what happened to the newborn baby in the cardboard box. Little did he know that the abandoned boy would follow in his footsteps.


*Credit to South Bend Police Department Media Liaison Ashley O’Chap for providing the details, and photo, of Lt. Eyster’s story.

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