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Charges possible for girl, 13, who left her baby in Dumpster

A view Huntleigh Ct. where one-day old baby boy was found trash bSunday night Country Club Hills was later pronounced

A view of Huntleigh Ct. where a one-day old baby boy was found in a trash bin Sunday night in Country Club Hills and was later pronounced dead as seen Monday, Jan. 2, 2012. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 5, 2012 8:09AM



Even veteran police officers hardened by years on the streets were unnerved Sunday when they found a newborn in a Country Club Hills Dumpster.

The baby boy, wrapped in a pair of jeans, had been placed there by his mother, a 13-year-old girl, on a cold Sunday night, police said.

The baby was dead. A police investigation continues. And a community is shaken.

“It challenged my officers. They picked up the baby in the Dumpster and delivered the child to the fire department,” Country Club Hills Police Chief William Brown said Tuesday. “They’re fathers as well, and this ... this is something you don’t see often, if at all, in a career.”

The girl told police she gave birth to the baby at home in an apartment in the 17900 block of Huntleigh Court and then placed the baby in the trash. She had not been charged as of Tuesday.

“What hit my guys is our (police) department is two minutes from where she delivered the baby,” said Brown, noting that under the state’s Safe Haven Law, the baby could have been dropped off there, no questions asked. “You just drive up to the corner, make a right turn, and there we are.

“The whole thing has a lot of twists and turns that could have been avoided.”

The Safe Haven Law is another name for the Illinois Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act. It gives a new mother 30 days to leave a baby with personnel at a police station, hospital, emergency medical care facility or firehouse, anonymously, with no questions asked and without fear of prosecution. Adoption agencies are contacted and the baby soon has a home with adoptive parents.

The law “is an option for overwhelmed parents to do the responsible thing,” said Kendall Marlowe, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

DCFS is investigating an allegation of abuse by the baby’s mother, Marlowe said. There is no record of problems at the home, he said. Two other children living there are now in the care of relatives, he said.

“Often, in the case of abandonments, they come out of a hidden pregnancy where the mother fears the consequences of the birth coming to light,” Marlowe said.

That may have been the case in Country Club Hills, said Christine Lavine, director of the Tinley Park office of PASS (Pregnancy Aid South Suburbs).

“The younger the girls are, they really don’t understand how easily pregnancy can happen and how the whole nine months work,” Lavine said. “It’s a reaction of panic. I think she made a very uninformed choice. We have to understand that someone so young is a child herself. I’m not supporting what she did, but she made a quick, rash decision.”

Illinois expanded its Safe Haven Law in August to include college or university police stations and any district headquarters of the Illinois State Police as places where a newborn could be dropped off. But Marlowe said the Safe Haven Law “will never prevent every one of these tragedies.”

Unintentional pregnancies are not unusual, Lavine said. PASS counsels more than 2,000 women and girls at its offices in South Holland, Lansing and Tinley Park each year, she said. The Tinley Park center sees 100 each month, and the majority are 15 to 30 years old, she said.

“We help them figure out their plans and options. We’re not judgmental. We’re here for a resource,” she said.

It is possible, she said, that the 13-year-old girl was not aware of her pregnancy, Lavine said.

Brown said women in the girl’s family are large in stature.

“It’s conceivable you wouldn’t notice it as readily as you would with a smaller-framed girl,” Brown said.

Dawn Geras, president of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, said her own emotions ranged “between frustration, anger and heartbreak.”

“Each time we lose a baby like this one, it’s worse,” Geras said. “She’s 13 years old. How could Mom and Dad and the people at school not know she was pregnant? This is probably the youngest (mother) we’ve had since this law has been in effect.”

The Safe Haven Law has saved 72 babies since 2001, she said. That includes eight in 2011, Geras said.

Asked if churches, which are not included in the law, would be a good option to drop off unwanted babies, she said, “The problem is most churches are not open 24/7.”

Statistics kept by Geras find that 55 percent of abandoned babies are left by white mothers, with minorities accounting for the other 45 percent. Nearly half of the mothers, 46 percent, are 18 to 24 years old, she said.

The police investigation “is very much alive,” and felony charges are possible, Brown said.

“The state’s attorney has not determined which way to go with this because of her age, and the cause of death, which has not been finalized yet,” Brown said. “A stillborn (baby) would be a different issue than a live birth.”

The cause of death is pending the police investigation, the Cook County medical examiner’s office said. Brown said police do not know what time Sunday the baby was born.

The grisly discovery has been the talk of the town. Ald. Vincent Lockett (2nd) said the news “knocked me off my feet.”

“I couldn’t believe something like that could happen. I understand here’s a kid with nowhere to go. In my heart, I’ll pray for the young lady and her family,” he said.

Sonji Woods, who has lived in the apartment complex where the 13-year-old mother lives since 1995, said the incident rattled residents.

“It’s horrible, very horrible, and a bit disturbing,” Woods said. “It’s usually really quiet here.”

Contributing: Casey Toner



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