For about three hours yesterday, the speculation ran wilder than a pack of dingos.

Residents of "crack-ridden" neighborhood in West Philadelphia prepared for the worst.

An army of TV reporters raced to the 4200 block of Fairmount Avenue to rush the tragic tale onto the evening newscasts.

Earlier in the afternoon, a man called police to say he had found a body in the backyard of his rundown rowhouse.

Police closed off the block with yellow crime scene tape.

A Channel 6 reporter breathlessly panted into the cameras about the "disturbing discovery" of human remains as helicopters roared overhead.

"We have no idea what the sex or age may be," one neighbor intoned to an Inquirer reporter. "But it appears to be a newborn."

Police kept the 50-year-old homeowner who reported the remains on a short leash while detectives searched his home.

"The dirt on the ground seems to be freshly placed there," one officer announced gravely into television microphones. "All we see if about three inches of the top of a head."

Investigators delicately unearthed the rest of the body as a city medical examiner hurried to the scene.

Neighbors sat in chairs in backyards amid the debris watching the search of the grounds of the home.

Across the street from the house behind the yellow tape Mary Brown, 44, of the 4300 block of Fairmount could only shake her head.

"I think this area is a crackhead area," she said. "I think a [crack] smoker did it."

Tamika Jones, 33, standing nearby agreed: "I think it's sad. It don't make no sense. If they didn't want it they could have dropped it off at a hospital or somewhere."

Few expected what happened next.

At 6:30 p.m. the truth was revealed.

The body wasn't a child. It was the remains of a small dog.

The helicopters buzzed off, the police closed up shop, and the reporters drove away.

This morning, few of the nearby residents had heard that tragedy had been narrowly averted. A handful of neighbors strolled by the rowhouse at 8 a.m. They were surprised to learn it all had been much ado about nothing.

"I don't know why they couldn't tell what it was," said Pam Cephas, as she strolled back to her home on 42nd Street after walking her grandson to school. "Such a hullabaloo."

Another woman, who declined to give her name, shook her head.

"You're kidding me," she said. "I'm relieved. But I just don't get it.

"Who can't tell a dog from a baby!"

Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or at
Inquirer staff writer Dwight Ott contributed to this report.