68ºF

Authorities issue 'Safe Haven' reminder after baby abandoned at I-75 rest stop

Parents can surrender newborns 'no questions asked'

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Marion County Sheriff's Office detectives are reminding Floridians about the state's Safe Haven Law after an hours-old baby boy was found in the woman's restroom at a rest stop along I-75 two days before Christmas.

Deputies responded about 3:14 a.m. Saturday to a rest area at 11400 S.W. Southbound I-75 regarding the abandoned newborn baby boy being found.

Marion County detectives said they believe the mother gave birth and left the baby boy in the restroom.

The infant was taken to a local hospital where he remained Tuesday. Hospital official said he is expected to survive.

Travelers at the rest stop were saddened to hear what happened over the weekend.

"Absolutely horrible. I mean, being parents you just don't know how anyone could do anything like that," said Chris Ripley, who visited the rest stop Tuesday.

According to a Safe Haven for Newborns, Saturday's newborn marks the third abandoned baby in Marion County for 2017.

"There are so many safe places. Fire houses and other places that you can do that. A rest area. Oh my gosh, just horrible," traveler Kristen Ripley said.

Parents may surrender their infants, less than a week old, under Florida's Safe Haven law.
Parents may surrender their infants, less than a week old, under Florida's Safe Haven law.

Marion County Sheriff's Office Major Crimes detectives are seeking information on the abandonment of the infant and are asking anyone with information to call Detective Billy Burleson at 352-368-3542.

Deputies said tipsters who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of Marion County at 352-368-STOP, or submit tips at ocalacrimestoppers.com. For Crime Stoppers, reference 17-145 in the tip.

"A 'Safe Haven' law was enacted in Florida to eliminate the tragedies resulting in the abandonment of newborn babies," the Sheriff's Office said in a news release. "This law allows parents to leave their unharmed newborn babies, who are not more than one week old, with an employee at any hospital, emergency medical services station or with a firefighter at any fire station in Florida."

More than 270 babies have been safely surrendered under Safe Haven laws since 2000, according to the Florida nonprofit, A Safe Haven for Newborns.

For more information about a Safe Haven for Newborns and a list of safe haven locations, visit the organization's website asafehavenfornewborns.com. A hotline is also available 24 hours a day in English and Spanish at 1-877-767-2229.