Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe on Friday called the death of an abandoned baby in South El Monte an "appalling" tragedy that highlights the need to better promote the county's Safe Surrender program.
The body of the baby boy was found about 3 p.m. Thursday in the 2600 block of Chico Avenue, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.
Police found the body in a trash bin after doctors at a local hospital reported that a woman had walked into the facility bleeding profusely, then broke down and said she had just given birth and discarded the newborn in front of her apartment, KABC reported.
In a statement issued Friday, Knabe said the abandoned baby's death was a stark reminder that mothers in desperate situations have a choice through the Safe Surrender program.
Established in 2001, the program allows a parent or legal guardian to confidentially hand over an infant 3 days old or younger to any hospital emergency room or Los Angeles County fire station. As long as the baby has not been abused or neglected, the person may surrender the baby without fear of prosecution for child abandonment.
"The Safe Surrender program was created to give a mother, no matter what the situation, a safe, secure and anonymous way to get her child into safe hands ... and to protect a baby from abandonment: no shame, no blame and no names," Knabe said.
Since the program's inception, 107 babies have been surrendered, according to Knabe's office. Still, the supervisor said, "yesterday's disheartening news is proof that we have much more work to do."
The investigation into the South El Monte incident continued Friday, sheriff's officials said.
Before any possible arrest, "we're trying to figure out several things — how the infant died, if there's any criminal intent on anybody's part, how the infant was placed there, if there's any connection to this home to whichever parents, and who may or may not be culpable depending on the circumstances that we learn after the autopsy," sheriff's Lt. Jeff Leslie told ABC.