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Second Infant Washes Ashore on an O.C. Beach

March 13, 1995|DIANE SEO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SUNSET BEACH — A day after the body of a female infant was found on the sands in Newport Beach, another newborn girl washed ashore Sunday near 14th Street in Sunset Beach, leaving authorities with few clues as to a motive or parents' whereabouts.

Lt. Jay Mendez of the Orange County Sheriff's Department said a local resident was walking along Sunset Beach about 7 a.m. Sunday when he saw the body on the beach. Like the newborn found about 12 miles away on Saturday near 10th Street on Newport Beach, the baby's umbilical cord was still attached, authorities said.

"Our homicide and crime scene investigators are handling the case, and at this point they're not sure if the two cases are related," Mendez said. "But newborns shouldn't be out in the ocean to be washed ashore, so unless we find out differently, we're treating it as a homicide."

Mendez said the unidentified infant was 21 inches long and weighed seven pounds, which means she was full-term when born. The baby's race, however, was not determined because her body was badly decomposed, Mendez said.

"It appears she had been in the water for about four days," Mendez said. The first body is believed to have been at sea for five or six days.

An autopsy was performed Sunday, but a cause of death was not determined, Mendez said. Police would not release the name of the man who found the body.

Deputy Coroner Dan Sullivan said "at this time" authorities don't believe the infants were related, although the matter remains under investigation.

Jim Myers, 46, who lives on Pacific Avenue along Sunset Beach, said the baby was found on the beach in front of his home. Although the discovery created a commotion, Myers said he couldn't bear to look.

"When I saw one officer, I thought maybe there was a sick seal," he said. "When I saw more officers, I expected to hear them say it was a man that washed ashore. But when they said it was an infant, I said, 'Oh, God' and then walked back to my home."

Meanwhile, in Newport Beach, authorities are still looking for clues about the tiny body that washed ashore there Saturday. A 35-year-old Garden Grove woman discovered the body near the surf line while taking a morning walk, police said.

"The coroner's office did an autopsy Saturday, but they couldn't determine the cause of death because the baby had been in the ocean for five or six days," Police Lt. Don Chandler said. "We're hoping that someone out there knew a pregnant lady who doesn't have the baby anymore."

Chandler said the newborn probably was white, although authorities did not know for sure.

Because of the strong ocean currents during the recent storm, authorities said it's difficult to tell which direction the infants were coming from or how far their bodies traveled. On Sunday, Sunset Beach was littered with tree branches, seaweed and other debris.

The shocking nature of the two incidents and the fact that the newborns were discovered a day apart surprised even law enforcement officials.

"It's totally bizarre," Chandler said.

Said Mendez: "I've been here seven years, and it's the first time I've heard of anything like this. I've heard of adults and teen-agers washing ashore, but not babies."

But Dr. Bruce Danto, a Fullerton forensic psychiatrist who has eight years of experience as a homicide detective, said, "I don't think killing babies is rare at all, but disposing their bodies like this is."

Danto speculated that the mothers were in desperate situations and did not believe they could care for their infants.

"They may not have had enough money, or they may have been struggling with ambivalent feelings about having a child," he said. "For a lot of young girls, having a baby is a romantic and exciting thing until you have them. Then you realize they need care."

Authorities are asking anyone with information on the infants to contact Newport Beach police at (714) 644-3681 or the Orange County Sheriff's Department at (714) 647-7000.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Bodies Discovered

The bodies of two newborn girls, their umbilical cords still attached, have washed up on Orange County beaches. On Sunday, an infant was discovered near 14th Street on Sunset Beach. The day before, a body was found about 12 miles away, near 10th Street in Newport Beach. Investigators say such incidents are extremely rare, and they don't know at this point whether the two cases are related.

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