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Infant's Body Found in Trash

Crime: Newborn discovered in Carson is the fifth abandoned in L.A. County in a month, and the third to die.

July 10, 2002|CHRISTINA L. ESPARZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The discovery of an infant's body Tuesday morning at a Carson recycling center marks the fifth abandoned newborn in the county in four weeks and the third death, officials said.

Workers found the newborn about 5 a.m. while separating trash on a conveyor belt at Quality Paper and Fiber Inc. in the 19200 block of Figueroa Street, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Scott Butler. The coroner's office expects to have the baby's age and a cause of death within the week.

This is the third child to have been found at a waste or recycling plant in a month.

One week ago Tuesday, the body of an infant girl was found at Best Way Recycling in Walnut Park. On June 10, another body of a newborn girl was found on a conveyer belt at Athens Disposal Services in the City of Industry.

On June 13, an infant was found bloody and naked outside a Panorama City apartment, and another was left on a downtown Los Angeles apartment doorstep on June 30.

"I think it's disgusting," said Deputy Richard Weston. "There's a safe haven program in effect. People can bring the baby to any fire station, any hospital, any clinic.... Nobody seems to be taking advantage of this law."

California's "safe haven" law states that a woman can leave her child at a hospital, clinic or fire station within 72 hours of birth with no questions asked and no fear of prosecution.

However, more children have been discarded in the county than safely surrendered since the law's implementation last year, according to the Safe Haven for Abandoned Newborns Task Force, a group committed to preventing child abandonment.

Fourteen infants were found abandoned last year, 11 of whom died, said Yolie Flores Aguilar, co-chairwoman of the task force. None of the 14 was left at safe havens.

This year, nine babies have been abandoned, two were surrendered to safe havens and three were found dead.

"It's very distressing," Flores Aguilar said. "Every time I hear about another baby, my heart just sinks."

The task force, which began functioning in February, has conducted surveys and compiled statistics to find out why infants were being abandoned, and found three common denominators: fear, denial and lack of support.

"All of these women were in denial or concealed their pregnancy," Flores Aguilar said.

Often, these mothers believed they would shame their families, or were women who already had children and did not have the means to care for another.

The task force's report revealed that the mothers of discarded children do not fit in any one race, class, marital status or age.

"Most people tend to think that only young girls and minorities" abandon their babies, said Pamela Booth, head deputy district attorney for her agency's family violence division.

"There's no consistency in race, ethnicity, age.... It's across the board."

Most cases of child abandonment are not brought to trial, but instead are settled, Booth said. Punishment ranges from probation to 25 years to life in prison.

In cases where a mother stabs, smothers or hits a baby until it dies, she faces a life sentence. Those who leave their babies in precarious situations that lead to death--such as dumping an infant in a trash bin--can face as much as a six-year sentence, Booth said.

If the mother is a minor, however, she could be charged as a juvenile and may face time in a group home or a California Youth Authority camp until age 25.

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