Portales police have arrested a woman who said Sunday that she found an abandoned baby in a park. Police said Tuesday they now believe the newborn belonged to the woman who said she found it while jogging in Rotary Park near her dorm room at Eastern New Mexico University.
The 18-year-old woman is charged with filing a false report. The misdemeanor crime carries a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The woman could not be reached for comment.
“We determined that she gave birth about 4 a.m. Saturday morning,” said Capt. Lonnie Berry of the Portales Police Department. “She tied the cord off, cleaned up the baby a little bit and kept the baby until Sunday in her dorm room when she reported it had been abandoned in the park.”
Berry said police did an intensive investigation all day Sunday and noticed the woman appeared physically tired and exhausted. Fellow students who had known her before Saturday noticed other signs that led police to put her under suspicion.
“Witnesses reported having seen a change in her over a day or two, I’m sure dramatic weight loss,” Berry said.
Berry said the incident didn’t need to happen.
“Had she not made up the false report there would have been no criminal aspect at all,” Berry said. “She had not abandoned the child, she placed the child in the care of emergency medical personnel. New Mexico law says you can take your child to an emergency room or to emergency medical personnel and there would have been no questions asked.”
“Any local police departments would have helped, and the community service center provides a lot of help and activities,” Berry said.
Don Holden, Roosevelt County officer for the Children Youth and Families Department, said the mother could have sought a number of free resources to help with her situation.
“People who don’t want anyone to know they have a baby can go to the hospital, the hospital will take the baby, they can have the baby at the hospital and leave and it won’t cost them anything,” Holden said. “Many times we can take the baby straight from the hospital into an adoptive home.”
Holden said that under what New Mexico calls the “Safe Haven Baby Act,” the next step is that the hospital calls CYFD and a court procedure begins to make the baby a ward of the state and therefore adoptable.
While the law exists to help mothers who feel they have no other place to turn, Holden said it is better for a pregnant woman to contact social services for help early in a pregnancy.
“We’d like to remind those, especially teenagers, who are pregnant they should obtain prenatal care,” Holden said. “It’s very important for the health of the mother and the health of the baby.”