Police: Department following tips on infant found

NORTH VERNON — An hours-old infant boy found abandoned near trash cans at a North Vernon church is in stable condition as police continue to search for his mother, saying she needs urgent medical care.

North Vernon police are following some tips called in from the public but still don’t know why the 8-pound, nearly full-term infant was left Thursday at Christ’s Way Christian Church, 2425 N. State Road 3, said Sgt. Andrew Richmond, North Vernon police spokesman.

On Friday afternoon, police issued a plea for the mother to seek immediate medical care at the nearest hospital after medical tests showed the baby and mother share a serious infection. The baby is being treated and continues to be stable, but the mother needs immediate treatment, Richmond said.

Officers did not identify the infection, but Richmond said it could be life-threatening for the mother if not treated soon, and goes beyond the earlier concern about complications from the birth that could cause the mother issues with her health.

Police said they now believe the baby was only 12 hours old or less when he was found at 5:15 p.m. Thursday behind the church by the church pastor’s wife, Angeline Denney, police said. 

She told police she heard noises, possibly the baby crying, while cleaning up from a youth group event at the church, Richmond said.

The baby boy, who still had part of his umbilical cord attached, was not clothed but was wrapped in a couple of coats and coat-type material when he was found, Richmond said.

The baby, who appears to be Caucasian, is hospitalized at Columbus Regional Hospital as a ward of the state in the care of Child Protective Services, Richmond said. If the child’s biological parents can’t be located, he will go into foster care and eventually could be adopted.

Police said they have been told that the serious infection was passed from the mother to the baby, and the mother could be rapidly approaching a health emergency if she doesn’t seek treatment soon, Richmond said.

Medical facilities in Jennings County and surrounding counties have been notified to watch for a patient who has recently given birth and showing signs of a serious infection, he said.

There was no answer to telephone calls at the church Friday trying to reach the Rev. Dan Denney and his wife, who serve at the church. Friends of the couple contacted by phone said the couple did not wish to speak to the media.

In a statement released on the church’s social media page, Angeline Denney said she did not have additional information that would enhance the infant’s well-being or help to locate his biological family.

“I will be praying for him and his family, and I ask that others pray, too,” she wrote.

Medical officials estimated the boy, who is being called “Baby Boy Doe,” was born Thursday morning after an extended natural birth, which has caused police to begin the search for the mother to provide medical care she might need, Richmond said. Possible complications from an extended natural birth can be bleeding and infection and follow-up care is necessary, he said. However, the new information about the infection the baby is being treated for is above and beyond earlier concerns of complications, Richmond said.

Police said they do not know whether the infant was left by someone who lives in Jennings County or whether the mother could have been traveling through the area.

Churches are not included in the safe places covered by Indiana’s Safe Haven law, which allows any adult to give up custody of an infant less than 30 days old to a hospital emergency room, fire station or police station in Indiana.

The law states that, as long as there are no signs of intentional abuse on the baby, no information is required of the person giving up the infant. The person leaving the infant may provide date of birth, race, parent medical history, child’s health or anything that would be useful to the child’s caregiver but is not required to provide the information, the law states.

Once the baby is given any needed medical treatment, it is placed in the custody of the Indiana Department of Child Services, the law states.

Richmond said the department hopes people will educate themselves about the law as a result of this case and understand that, while the child was left near a church, it was not a protected location under the Safe Haven law.

Although the baby was discovered and is being cared for, the best possible outcome is assured when an infant is turned over to a hospital emergency room, police department or fire department, where medical staff are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, he said. Leaving a baby where it might be discovered does not always lead to the best possible outcome, he said.

Police said they are hoping someone knows a woman who was pregnant and due to give birth soon that hasn’t been heard from for a few days, and will call the police to do a welfare check on her, Richmond said.

“That could be the way we find the mother,” he said.

He emphasized that human life is the officers’ number-one priority and the department is most concerned with the importance of the mother receiving medical care immediately.

Angeline Denney encouraged everyone to extend grace and mercy to the people for whom the Safe Haven law was created, her statement on social media said.

“Parenting is exhausting, demanding work which can easily overwhelm anyone. If we truly want to save the lives of children, then we must also make it safe for distressed parents to utilize the Safe Haven law. We must offer support and love to those who make hard choices that ultimately serve the child’s best interest,” she wrote.

About Safe Haven

Distressed parents can receive counseling and get addresses and directions for any hospital, fire station or police station in Indiana by calling the Safe Haven hotline, 1-877-796-4673, or 2-1-1.

Parents can learn more by visiting the National Safe Haven Alliance in Indiana website safehaven.tv/ to get more information.

Have a tip?

Anyone with information about the infant boy found Thursday at Christ’s Way Christian Church in North Vernon or his mother or biological family is asked to call:

  • North Vernon Police Department: 812-346-1466
  • Jennings County central dispatch non-emergency: 812-346-2345
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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.