POLK COUNTY, Fla. – A newborn baby is recovering in the hospital after Polk County deputies found her abandoned outdoors early Saturday morning about an hour after she was born. She was still attached to a placenta.
The child was found in Mulberry, which is just east of Tampa, and a little over 200 miles from Jacksonville.
Temperatures were in the low 50s when the newborn was rescued. She was outside for about an hour, wrapped in old blankets, but investigators say she is healthy, except for some bug bites.
A woman told deputies she thought she heard cats fighting in the woods, and it wasn’t until about an hour later that she realized the noises were coming from a crying baby.
She searched the woods, found the newborn, and called 911.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said if the child died, this could have turned into a murder investigation.
“We don’t know if the child was born in the woods or if the child was taken to the woods after it was born, Judd said. “That is still under investigation. But certainly, we saved this person from a homicide charge because certainly if that child laid out there and died, we would be talking about a murder investigation.”
The child was fully developed, but just six and a half pounds. Investigators believe she is of Hispanic descent.
Deputies used a K-9 unit, a drone, and a bloodhound to try to find the mother but couldn’t track her down. Anyone with information is asked to call the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Safe Haven Law
In Florida, parents can leave a newborn at a designated location without facing criminal charges. It’s a part of the state’s Safe Haven Laws.
The child must be handed to an on-duty staff member, and rules vary per state.
In Florida, an unharmed newborn can be surrendered up to seven days after birth.
There are safe haven laws in all 50 states. In Florida, locations include a hospital, an EMS provider, or a fire station. People can also call the state agency hotline at 1-877-767-2229 for more information.
The one exception in Florida is in Ocala. It’s the only city in Florida that has a Safe Haven Baby Box. It’s a climate-controlled box that is installed in designated locations that allow parents in crisis to surrender their children.
A silent alarm will alert firefighters there is a baby in the box 60 seconds after the newborn is placed inside. The box was used for the first time ever this month, two years after it was installed.
Georgia also has a safe haven law where parents are allowed to drop off babies at any fire station, police station, or hospital.
The babies must be handed to a person, and parents must surrender their newborns within 30 days.