Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Lives Thrown Away

by Connie Park

On April 2, 2008, at Cedar Bayou Junior High located in Baytown, Texas, police responded to a call where a newborn baby was found dead in the toilet of the girls bathroom. The infant, a boy, had been suffocated with toilet paper stuffed in his mouth.

According to the autopsy report, the death was ruled a homicide--the baby was delivered at full term. Additonally, the baby sustained blunt trauma to the head and neck. The young teenage mother was only fourteen years old and is currently facing capital murder charges.

A similar case occurred recently at a Houston hospital where a newborn baby was found wrapped in paper towels and discarded in the bathroom trash can. Unfortunately, by the time the baby was found, he was brain dead and died a couple of days later.

Over recent years, cases like these have been way too common. According to statistics, prior to 1999, just in the state of Texas alone, 33 newborns were been abandoned. In 1999, the
Texas legislature enacted the first Safe Haven Law, also known as the Baby Moses Law, in the United States. This law allows mothers to leave their unharmed newborn babies at police stations, hospitals, and firehouse facilities withour fear of prosection.

In spite of the Safe Haven Law, murdered babies are continually being found discarded in places like trash cans, Dumpsters, and bathrooms.

Several years ago, my partner and I were assigned to follow up on a hospital call where a young female teenager was being examined for a miscarriage she had early in the morning.

The teenager told the attending doctor and nurse that she was only six weeks pregnant but the examination revealed that she delivered a full-term baby. She repeatedly told them she was only in the first trimester of her pregnancy. The important question that remained was where she discarded the newborn baby.

During the initial interview, we urged the young mother to tell us where she'd left the baby so that the infant could receive a proper burial. We told her that was the least she could do for her baby.

After several long minutes, the young mother tearfully told us that the baby was born early in the morning when she was inside the bathroom of her home. Everyone was sleeping in the house so when the baby was born and he started crying she became frantic and panicked. In order to stop the baby from crying, she placed her fingers around the tiny throat of the baby until it stopped crying. He did stop crying and, sadly enough, the tiny newborn stopped breathing as well. She cleaned up the bathroom and went back to her bedroom.

But where was the baby? The young mother confided in me and told me that I would find the baby in the cabinet of the her bathroom. She put her dead baby in a plastic trash bag and placed the bag behind the toilet paper.

Dreading the worst, we drove to the house and met with family members. The family was surprised about the investigation and why we were there. The sister directed us to the bathroom and exactly the way the young mother described it, we located the baby. I opened the cabinet door and behind the toilet paper I found a tied up plastic bag. I untied the trash bag and looked inside and found a tiny lifeless newborn baby. This was something I thought I would never see, much less even imagine. But something that sadly will never leave my memory.

The young mother told me no one knew about her pregnancy, even the father of the baby, and that she didn't want her family to find out. She was scared and didn't know what to do. The tragic thing about the whole situation was that if she only reached out to her family they would have been there for her. They said they would have supported and loved that baby regardless of the situation. I know I could never understand the young mother's explanantion of her actions and how she took the life of her own baby.

What causes these mothers to kill their innocent babies? Is it the lack of education, lack of values, lack of family support, mental illness, or some combination of all the above? Where are the babies' fathers? What role, if any, do the fathers play in all of this? There are no justifiable explanations or excuses for why these babies are discarded in trash cans or tossed in the bathroom toilets. I do know there are many ways where these innocent babies' lives could have been saved.

One thing these young mothers seem to have failed to consider in their moment of panic: When they tossed their babies' lives away, they threw away their own as well.

The young mother whose baby I found was charged with capital murder. Because the court did not certify her as an adult, she was sent to the
Texas Youth Commission to serve out her sentence.


Terri said...

How sad - when there are so many childless couples waiting for babies to adopt. It's a shame that these girls are so scared to tell their parents that they find it easier to kill the baby than to ask for help. I got pregnant unexpectedly while in college and was also terrified about telling my parents. I called a friend and she told them for me. I didn't even consider killing the baby. What I did consider was running away forever, but my friend talked me out of it. My family ended up being supportive and everything worked out fine. My son is 18 years old now.

Leah said...

And you did a good job with him Terri. I too had my son when I was almost 21 and in college. I lived away from home but I still didn't tell my parents until after I had him because I wasn't sure I was going to keep him and raise him and I didn't want to tell them in case I decided to give him up for adoption. And I NEVER, even once, entertained the idea of having him and putting him in a trash can or murdering him. I think this is so tragically sad. These young girls are not mature enough to be having sex, let along having a baby. I use to say that if I had a daughter I would get her the implant when she was 10 years old, just in case.

Anonymous said...

I hate these kind of cases. So sad all around.

But 14 year olds do not qualify for the death penalty. Not even in Texas

Connie Park said...

Terri and Leah,

Thank you so much for your insight on your experiences. You both showed incredible courage during your difficult and confusing time.
It just goes to show that there are other options that can result in happy endings.

Connie Park said... are absolutely correct. I apologize for the error.

Women in Crime Ink said...

The error was not Connie's. That part of the sentence was added during editing. Appreciate your setting the record straight. Post has been modified accordingly. Thanks.