Fisherman finds newborn on beach

Middletown teen
facing charges of
attempted murder

Staff Writer

Middletown teen
facing charges of
attempted murder


Staff Writer

A 15-year-old Middletown girl is facing attempted murder, abandonment and child endangerment charges after allegedly putting her newborn child in a plastic grocery bag and disposing of it near a local beach.

At about 7:50 a.m. Sunday, while embarking on a day of fishing, Middletown fisherman John Aviles found a newborn baby girl wedged in between and underneath bushes on a path near the entrance to Ideal Beach in the North Middletown section, Deputy Police Chief Robert Oches said.

The 15-year-old mother, who is a special education student outside of the Middletown district, saw authorities arrive at the scene at about 7:55 a.m. Sunday, Oches said.

She turned herself in at the Middletown Detective Bureau a little later that day, accompanied by her mother and sister, and "was questioned later by local police and county authorities in the presence of her father at about 5 p.m. Sunday," Oches said.

The 8-pound baby girl, who Aviles "found laying on a bloody towel with the placenta and umbilical chord", survived, Monmouth County Prosecutor John Kaye said. "But she survived by a thread. The really good news about this whole thing is the alert and responsible conduct by the fisherman. Within another half-hour to an hour, the baby would have been dead, our experts are telling us."

After finding the newborn, Aviles immediately brought her to his truck, about 100 feet from where he found her, Oches said. The fisherman turned on the truck, blasted the heat and called 911.

The baby’s extremities were blue from enduring the 37-degree temperature that morning with no insulation, Kaye said.

"It was cold. The baby was in that thin plastic grocery bag. That’s it," the prosecutor said.

The baby was in the bag with a blood-stained towel or pillow case and the afterbirth.

"The baby also was not left in an area where she could be easily discovered — no safe haven," Kaye said.

Authorities said they were disappointed that the teen mother, who lives near the park, did not take advantage of the N.J. Safe Haven Infant Protection Act, which was signed into law on July 7, 2000. On March 29, 2001, a directive was issued by the state Attorney General’s Office to implement the law, which guarantees a no-questions-asked policy for desperate mothers.

"We know she was aware of the Safe Haven law because we found stuck to the wall in her bedroom an article from Teen People magazine’s May 2002 issue which told the story of a girl who secretly gave birth to a baby, abandoned it (threw it out) and eventually got it back," Kaye said. "The story was a good public service-type story explaining the law and how it can help in these situations."

Considering that knowledge, authorities are requesting a full mental and physical evaluation to explain the Middletown teen’s conduct in this instance, Kaye added.

"It allows a mother who does not want a child to bring it to a place of safety, such as a church, a hospital or police station, without giving her name or any details at all and without repercussions," Oches said. "It’s a shame she did not take advantage of that. The intent of the law is to relieve people of responsibilities they do not want, or find they cannot handle, while protecting the child."

If Aviles had not responded to the animal-like whimpers he described to police that he heard that morning, "then we would have another situation entirely," Kaye said. "The baby would not have survived and the incident would have been considered an aggravated manslaughter situation. He saved the baby and he essentially saved the girl from that charge."

Oches said the teen gave birth at about 5 a.m. in the bathroom of her home by herself, then placed the child in the bag. She tied the bag and walked it up to Ideal Beach, a few blocks from her house, and left it in the hedge row of the path there.

After Aviles found the baby, she was taken to Riverview Medical Center, Red Bank, for evaluation and treatment for hypothermia. Her body temperature had plummeted to around 80 degrees because of the ordeal, Oches said.

After turning herself in, the teen mother was also brought to Riverview for both physical and emotional evaluations, Kaye said. "She is technically under arrest, though, and in custody there," he added.

"Both are in good condition. The baby is healthy and doing well," Oches said.

The teen will be charged as a juvenile, Kaye said.

The mother was expected to be released from the hospital Monday or Tuesday and was slated to be transported to the Youth Detention Center in Freehold, Kaye said. Once she is there, she will have the right to a detention hearing within 24 hours.

Kaye said there have been about nine or 10 similar cases during his 20 years in the prosecutor’s office.

"Of course the case known as the prom mom incident (where the girl had a baby in the bathroom during the prom in Aberdeen in the late 1990s and it died) was the most notorious," Kaye said. "That case put the issue higher in people’s consciousness. There have been less similar incidents since."