02/11/07 — Officers look for baby's parents

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Officers look for baby's parents

By Lee Williams
Published in News on February 11, 2007 8:46 AM

WARSAW -- The hunt continues for the mother who abandoned her newborn baby Tuesday at a vacant home on East Chelly Street.

The small, male infant was found wrapped in a blanket about 1 p.m. by a couple who were house hunting in the area, said Warsaw police Capt. Jerry Wood, the lead investigator on the case.

The incident touched residents all across the state and prompted medical officials to speak out in hopes of preventing other babies from suffering the same fate.

Duplin County Emergency Medical Services Director Brian Pearce knows some mothers might feel overwhelmed and that they have nowhere to turn. But, he said, there are parameters in place that could protect both the mother and the unwanted child.

The Infant Homicide Prevention Act -- dubbed the Safe Surrender Law -- is a state law established in 2001 that gives mothers a way to turn over an unharmed newborn to any responsible adult without any repercussions.

"The Infant Homicide Prevention Act states that if you have an infant up to 7 days old and you don't want the child for whatever reason, you can leave it with any responsible adult with no questions asked," Pearce said. "They can do it anonymously with no questions asked."

While it is not mandated, the law lists health care providers, law enforcement personnel, social services workers and Emergency Medical Services personnel as possible options of whom to leave the child with, Pearce said.

He said mothers can take comfort in knowing there are several agencies they can turn to because they are open 24 hours a day including hospitals, police, fire or Emergency Medical Services stations.

The Wayne County government Web site also provides information about the Safe Surrender Law.

On the Web site, it states the mother might be asked questions regarding the child's health and medical history, but the information is not required.

"The key to this law is that the mother can turn over her child confidentially and lawfully," the Web site states.

Mothers who would like to know more information can visit www.safesurrender.net, call 1-800-FOR-BABY or dial 911.

Members of Pearce's staff responded to the call about the infant who was found at the vacant home in Warsaw. Pearce said the incident was traumatic for the crew.

He said the EMS workers were offered counseling, however, since the service is offered on an anonymous basis, he was unsure if or how many EMS workers received counseling in light of the recovery.

Few details have surfaced in the case.

Wood said the baby was not born in a medical facility, but was alive at birth. He declined to release the cause of the baby's death, but added physical abuse was not suspected.

An autopsy was performed at Onslow Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville Wednesday. The baby's ethnicity is still in question. It's unclear whether the child was Hispanic or Caucasian, Wood said.

Officials are in the process of trying to find a way to give the baby closure. Wood said several people in Wayne and Duplin counties have approached him about covering the burial expenses. While he is grateful, he said he is waiting for clearance from the Department of Social Services before he can move forward with the service.

"We're trying to make some arrangements, but we're waiting to see what social services will allow," Wood said.

Meanwhile, the search for the parents continues. Anyone with information about the baby's mother is asked to call the Warsaw Police Department at 910-293-7816.