Baby was abandoned with note that detailed domestic violence situation

Harbor House says mother likely left newborn as last resort

Authorities say a newborn was abandoned at an Orlando apartment complex along with a note.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The mother who abandoned a newborn baby on a doorstep at an Orlando apartment complex is believed to have left a note detailing a domestic violence situation, according to the Orlando Police Department.

Since the 1-day-old boy was found wrapped in a T-shirt at Willow Key Apartments on Arnold Palmer Drive at about 10:08 a.m. Saturday, police have continued to search for the child's mother.

Sgt. Eduardo Bernal said detectives are examining a note that neighbors said was left with the baby.
The note appears to have been written by the mother, detailing a serious, fearful, domestic violence situation.

Bernal said it could indicate the mother is in danger.

"We're not going to specifically talk about a note being part of this case," Bernal said. "But we are looking into all the circumstances with that."

Michelle Sperzel, CEO of the domestic violence shelter Harbor House, said the mother's choice to leave the baby with a complete stranger, coupled with the alarming note, indicates the woman was desperate.

"We know that domestic violence increases when a woman is pregnant," Sperzel said. "And also that horrific feeling of if you're feeling in danger and you're feeling that if you stay with the individual that the baby's going to be harmed, that just going to, 'I need to make sure my baby's OK,' that's where I went when I first heard the story."

Sperzel said the abandoned infant's mother likely didn't have many options.

"A lot of times abusers use isolation so her friends, parents, they might not have known she was pregnant," Sperzel said. "I'd like to think this mother was thinking about the best for her child. And if she felt she or baby was in danger and she felt letting go of the child was the right thing, that's a very courageous decision to make."

But Sperzel said the Safe Haven law provides better options for mothers who cannot care for their newborns.

"That's why it's there," Sperzel said. "If you feel something is going to happen to you or your child, you can surrender your child with no criminal action associated with it."

Harbor House is also an option. The Harbor House 24-hour Confidential Crisis Hotline is 407-886-2856.

Police said OPD's Criminal Investigations Division is looking into the matter and that the Florida Department of Children and Families was notified.

Bernal said the mother appears to have committed a crime by not turning over the baby to a firefighter at a fire station or hospital worker at a hospital.

"For this case it could be child neglect," Bernal said. "In more serious cases where injury comes to the baby or death, it could be aggravated manslaughter. It's very serious. You're talking about a 1-day-old infant that can't take care of themselves, there's a lot of medical needs that start when the baby's born, and with the heat wave it's very dangerous, and that's why this (Safe Haven) law was created, to give parents an out, to transfer custody and make sure the baby's taken care of. "

The baby was taken to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and appeared to be in good health.

Althe Brown said she's still in shock that someone left the newborn on her doorstep.

"It's incomprehensible to me," she said. "I don't know if it's a neighbor or not or if it was just somebody that decided to use this place as their escape."

Police are reminding the public that under the Safe Haven law, an unwanted newborn baby should be taken to a hospital or a fire station, adding that there are no criminal repercussions if handled in this manner. Police said this can be done until the baby is 7 days old.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Orlando Police Department at 321-235-5300.

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.