The tall, thin young man in the blue work shirt had hustled into the emergency room of Memorial Medical Center of Long Beach well before dawn Wednesday.
"The woman in the back of my van is having a baby," he told the medical staff, Long Beach police later recounted.
And out in the hospital's parking lot, in an aging green van with Rhode Island license plates, nurses found a red-haired woman in a white T-shirt, giving birth to a baby boy.
She was a heroin addict, police said the woman told nurses, and she could not take care of the child.
Nurses cut the umbilical cord and got the child crying, said a hospital spokesman, and then "took it in the hospital because it (the baby) was extremely cold," said Long Beach Police Officer Mural Asbill. "I guess they rushed the baby out and were going to come back to get the mother."
But as nurses left with the child, the man in the blue shirt gunned the van's engine to life and sped out of the parking lot, leaving behind the healthy, 6-pound, 6-ounce baby--his own son, police believe.
Less than 12 hours later, after police had put out a description of the pair as suspects in felony child abandonment, the phone rang in the hospital maternity ward, Officer Robert Woodall said. It was the red-haired woman, anxious about her baby.
Couldn't Care for Baby
"She wanted to see how the baby was doing and stated she couldn't take care of it right now," Woodall said. "She said she's using (heroin) heavily."
She also specified what she wanted her baby to be named, Woodall said, and spelled it out carefully: Jebiadiah Allen Fisher.
"We're not far behind her," Woodall said late Wednesday. "We just missed her a few minutes ago. We're hot on her trail."
The child at the hospital is "real cute and doesn't seem to be having problems," Woodall said.
Such cannot be said for the mother, he added. She has been in the area about eight years, most recently moving from Wilmington to Long Beach, and apparently has two other children who are living with relatives, Woodall said.
"She seemed concerned about her child" when she spoke with a hospital social worker, Woodall said. "It's not that she wants to give up the child, but she has not the means to care for it now."