News-Gazette stories about abandoned newborn

News-Gazette stories about abandoned newborn

Editor's note: Illinois legislators in 2001 passed the Abandoned Newborn Protection Act, providing that parents could give their children up at a number of designated "safe havens" and face no criminal charges. Here's the text of that law.

Here are stories from The News-Gazette in 1995 and 1996 when a newborn baby was abandoned at a cemetery east of Urbana:

From Sunday, Nov. 5, 1995

Infant found abandoned at rural cemetery * Baby "serious but stable'; tip from woman caller

By Scott Koeneman and Anne Cook

MAYVIEW — Acting on an anonymous tip, a cable-repair supervisor and Champaign County sheriff's deputies found a baby girl wrapped in a bloody blanket at Mount Olive Cemetery west of Mayview on Saturday morning.

The newborn was found after a woman made an anonymous call to 911 between 10 and 10:30 a.m. from a phone booth at an Urbana car wash 4 miles away. Carle Foundation Hospital house officer Joan Plunk said the baby, who is white, is in serious but stable condition.

"We're asking anyone with information about her to come forward so we have some knowledge about her medical condition," Plunk said. "We need to know more about her."

Charles Heflin of Urbana was first to arrive at the cemetery, which is midway between St. Joseph and Urbana. The Time Warner Cable supervisor found the child lying near a tree near a mausoleum.

"I didn't see the baby at first, but I heard her whimper," Heflin said. "It looked like a newborn, red with mucus on it. I could tell it was having breathing problems because it was blue around the mouth. I made sure the airway was clear."

Heflin, a trained emergency medical technician and Edge-Scott Fire Protection District firefighter who carries a scanner in his truck, said he was out on a cable trouble call in east Urbana when he heard dispatchers talking about the anonymous call.

He said police and rescue workers couldn't find the right cemetery immediately so he headed for the nearest one, knowing there was a mausoleum at Mount Olive.

Heflin said all he thought about was how fast the sub-freezing weather could hurt the baby.

"I was on an ambulance crew in Indiana for five years, and I've had calls about kids ice-skating falling in lakes, so I know how fast hypothermia works," Heflin said. "If a newborn gets it, that's all she wrote. I wanted to get that baby into a warm truck."

He found the baby lying on her back, whimpering.

"I'd turned the heat on high before I got out of the truck," Heflin said. "I put her near a blower, then I headed toward Urbana because I could hear everyone was headed our way and I thought I'd meet them. I put the baby on my lap, close to my body."

He met deputies and Pro Ambulance workers on his way out of the cemetery and turned the infant over to them.

Sheriff's investigators removed bloody rags from the scene after the baby was taken to Carle.

Lt. Paul Pope said they did not know if the baby was delivered at the scene or brought from somewhere else.

Deputies tried to lift prints from the telephone used to call authorities at the Auto Bath Systems car wash on East University Avenue just east of Yen Ching restaurant near the Five Points intersection.

The tree and mausoleum are adjacent to a gravel road in the cemetery, which is bordered on the east, west and south by cornfields and by U.S. 150 on the north. Mayview itself is a hamlet, midway between Urbana and St. Joseph, along U.S. 150.

A father of two toddlers, Heflin sized up the baby's spirit quickly.

"She looked like she'd make it," he said. "She was fighting. I walked away from there with good thoughts and went back to work. But if she'd been there longer..."

"It sounds like whoever made the call didn't want her to die," he said.

Dorothy Key lives only a few hundred yards from Mount Olive Cemetery. Key, whose mother is interred in the mausoleum, heard about the baby on a scanner in her home.

"My mother had 10 children and loved every one," Key said. "Mother wouldn't have been able to accept that and I can't accept that."

"I had to sit there for a while after I heard it," she said. "I couldn't get it through my head."

Key said she is outraged that someone would leave a baby out in Saturday's cold and winds.

"There are too many people in this world who would have taken that baby. She should have taken it someplace warm," Key said.

"She just threw that baby away."

---

From Monday, Nov. 6, 1995

Cemetery foundling is stable, faring fine * Mother sought; cop, nurses name baby Crystal Hope

By Mike Monson

URBANA — Baby Crystal Hope is holding her own.

Carle Foundation Hospital officials report that the abandoned baby girl found Saturday morning beside a pine tree in a cemetery in Mayview is in serious but stable condition in the neonatal unit.

"It appears as though she has not been harmed by being out in the cold," said Carle spokeswoman Gretchen Robbins, who said the child has no frostbite.

The child was named Baby Hope by Deputy Ed Ogle, who was among the first officer to arrive at the cemetery after authorities received an anonymous call to 911 about a child being left at a cemetery.

Ogle said he thought Hope was a better name than Olive, the name of the cemetery where she was found.

"She's cute," Ogle said of the white, 6 pound, 4 ounce infant. "She's doing really good. She's out of a heated environment."

Ogle visited the baby over the weekend.

Chief Deputy Gary Turner said Ogle didn't want the baby to be known as Baby Doe.

Carle nurses gave the baby a first name of Crystal, said Robbins.

"Crystal from the standpoint she was out in the cold and probably had some ice crystals on her," said Robbins. "It's sort of a first and last name."

Robbins said Carle's social worker will meet with officials today from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She said she expects DCFS would handle any adoption of the child, who Robbins said she anticipates will be declared a ward of the state.

Robbins said anyone interested in adopting or providing foster care for Crystal Hope should contact the DCFS adoption unit.

Meanwhile, Turner of the sheriff's office today asked the public to let the sheriff's office know if they know of any woman who was recently pregnant who now doesn't seem to have a child.

"Somebody out there knows whose baby this is," he said. "We hope they'll give us a tip."

The newborn was found after a woman made an anonymous call to 911 between 10 and 10:30 a.m. Saturday from a phone booth at an Urbana car wash four miles away.

Charles Heflin of Urbana was the first to arrive at the cemetery, midway between Urbana and St. Joseph along U.S. 150, after hearing the dispatch over his truck radio while working on cable lines.

Heflin heard the baby whimpering, looked behind the evergreen and found it wrapped in a blanket. Heflin is a trained emergency medical technician and Edge-Scott Fire Protection District firefighter. Bloody clothing and tissues were also found nearby. A string had been tied around the child's umbilical cord.

From Monday, Nov. 6, 1995

Fear, panic, confusion seen as factors in abandonment

By Julie Wurth

The image of a newborn infant left huddled against the cold in a cemetery, of all places, begs two questions:

Why would anyone do that? And how could they?

"Mostly it's fear and lack of knowledge," said Dr. Kathleen Buetow, director of Carle's Child Protection Team.

Buetow said the mother probably didn't plan to be pregnant, didn't fully recognize all the signs of a pregnancy and didn't know where she could turn once the baby was born.

"It's someone who's fearful, confused, and hasn't taken the time to think out the whole situation," Buetow said. "They panic and do something that we would all consider dumb and stupid. For them, it may be the only avenue they know to protect the baby and get themselves out of a very difficult situation."

Buetow said she hasn't dealt with many cases like this but said they usually involve very young mothers, still in adolescence, or adults who are developmentally delayed or mentally ill.

"I think it's people who are thinking very much like the kid who leaves her doll out in the rain," Buetow said. "They just don't appreciate the severity of the situation.

"This mother was probably in a terrible dilemma," she said. "She probably hadn't fully acknowledged this pregnancy. If she had, she wouldn't have chosen to deliver in someplace other than a medical setting where she could get some help. She wasn't willing to accept the responsibility of the infant, but she wanted to make sure the infant survived."

The woman may have hidden the pregnancy from family and friends, Buetow said.

"The longer they hide it, the more they convince themselves that it doesn't really exist," she said.

Why would she leave the infant in a cemetery, rather than a hospital emergency room or the Crisis Nursery?

Perhaps so she wouldn't have to be confronted with the humiliation of abandoning a child, said Steven Higgins, social worker at Centennial High School.

"There's a lot of shame and guilt," Higgins said. "'If I do this without somebody knowing about it, then I'm not going to be shamed in public.'"

Susan Evans, social worker at Jefferson Middle School, said it's difficult to explain the motivation until the mother is found.

It's not necessarily a teen mom, she said, but Evans has worked with enough pregnant teens to know they're usually scared to death.

"It's a very scary situation for them," Evans said. "Some teen moms have support to get through the pregnancy and support in caring for the child after the child is born. But some young women don't have that at all.

"They're facing not only going through pregnancy all by themselves but the reality of caring for a very small baby," she said.

That, coupled with trying to finish school and doing the normal things teens like to do can seem overwhelming, she said.

"There's a tremendous amount of stress involved in having a child and being an adolescent," Higgins said.

Higgins wasn't aware of any Champaign students who had abandoned a child. He did work with a teen in Decatur who had three children by the age of 17. The teen left her three children with someone, saying she couldn't cope. "She was really desperate at that point," he said.

Buetow said adults think abstractly and plan for the future, but teens don't.

"As kids, we take everything as it comes and do very little advance planning," she said.

Buetow said the focus now should be on finding the mother ... not to punish her but to "give her the resources to get her life back together." She said society should work to reduce teen pregnancies but avoid castigating unwed mothers.

---

From Tuesday, November 07, 1995

Abandoned girl nursing, "improving every day' * State to take custody of infant left in graveyard

By Lynda Zimmer

URBANA — Nursing on formula from a bottle, Crystal Hope is gaining weight.

By Monday, the baby girl abandoned Saturday in a rural cemetery had gained two ounces.

She weighed 6 pounds, 6 ounces when she was brought into Carle Foundation Hospital, but now weighs 6 pounds, 8 ounces, said Dr. William Stratton, a neonatologist taking care of the infant.

"She's a cutie," Stratton said. He described her hair as "fair-colored" and said she was sleeping in a bassinet.

"She's in serious, but stable condition, improving every day," he said.

The serious label was put on her because she was suffering from some cold stress, he said. "She was very, very fortunate to be found when she was," Stratton said.

Charles Heflin of Urbana, a cable-repair supervisor and trained emergency medical technician, first found the baby under a tree in Mount Olive Cemetery west of Mayview.

Heflin heard on his truck scanner that sheriff's deputies and rescue workers could not find the cemetery immediately, so he headed for the one closest to him, which is midway between St. Joseph and Urbana, next to U.S. 150.

The search started after a woman anonymously called 911 between 10 and 10:30 a.m. She apparently used a pay telephone at an Urbana car wash about four miles from the cemetery.

Deputies are trying to locate the woman who called and are asking for the public's help, said Gary Turner, chief deputy of the Champaign County sheriff's office. The caller could have been the baby's mother or a friend of the baby's mother, Turner said.

"There are indications the baby was born there (at the cemetery), or birth materials were brought there," Turner said.

He said deputies had gotten "very sketchy" information Monday morning about the descriptions of vehicles seen in the cemetery Saturday morning before the baby was found.

Turner said the mother could be arrested for child endangerment, which is a class 4 felony with a maximum penalty of one to three years in prison, but it would be up to the state's attorney to charge her.

Hospital officials want to find the mother to inquire about the baby's health history.

John House, manager of Child Protection for the Department of Children and Family Services, said his agency could be awarded temporary custody of the baby at a court hearing scheduled for today.

"At this point, it's unlikely the mother would get her back," House said. He said the baby probably would be offered for adoption.

Information on the baby may be obtained by calling the DCFS Adoption Information Hotline at 800-572-2390.

News-Gazette files listed three local babies — all girls — abandoned during the last 11 years:

— A dead baby left on the doorstep of a Westville funeral home in November 1989. She was traced to a 17-year-old unwed mother who lived in the Westville area and had the baby at home on Thanksgiving Day, then left the body two days later. She was not prosecuted, but was instead referred to counseling.

— A live baby called Merry Jane Doe who was left in the inside hallway of an Urbana apartment building in December 1985. Her parents never were found, and she was put up for adoption.

— A live baby found in a garbage bag near an Urbana apartment building trash bin in October 1984. Her parents never were found, and she was put up for adoption.

From Tuesday, November 07, 1995

State looks to terminate parent rights * Efforts may lead to adoption of girl left in graveyard

By Mary Schenk and Lynda Zimmer

URBANA — The Champaign County state's attorney's office has put the wheels in motion for the adoption of baby "Crystal Hope," a newborn abandoned at a cemetery east of Urbana on Saturday.

At a shelter-care hearing this morning, Assistant State's Attorney Mick McAvoy told Judge Ann Einhorn that the state intends to terminate the rights of the parents of the baby.

If the parents aren't located, the process could be done within a matter of months, clearing the way for the baby's adoption. If they are found and want to contest their termination, the process could take longer.

Usually, in abuse and neglect cases, the state attempts to work with parents for at least a year before setting the termination process into motion. McAvoy said even if parents were located in the near future and had some explanation, the abandonment is grounds enough for the state to carry through with permanently removing the baby from her parents.

Einhorn set a hearing for Dec. 18 and ordered that notices of the state's intention be published in the newspaper. She also appointed Urbana attorney Fred Depew as attorney for the child.

Depew said he planned to visit his youngest client later today.

Nursing on formula from a bottle, Crystal Hope had gained two ounces by Monday.

She weighed 6 pounds, 6 ounces when she was brought into Carle Foundation Hospital, but now weighs 6 pounds, 8 ounces, said Dr. William Stratton, a neonatologist taking care of her.

"She's a cutie," Stratton said. He described her hair as "fair- colored" and said she was sleeping in a regular bassinet.

"She's in serious, but stable condition, improving every day," he said.

The serious label was put on her because she was suffering from some cold stress, he said. "She was very, very fortunate to be found when she was," Stratton said.

Charles Heflin of Urbana, who is a cable-repair supervisor and trained emergency medical technician, found the baby under a tree in Mount Olive Cemetery, west of Mayview.

The search started after a woman anonymously called 911 between 10 and 10:30 a.m. She apparently used a pay telephone at a car wash just east of Five Points in Urbana, about four miles from the cemetery.

Deputy Ed Ogle testified this morning that the woman reported the baby was at Mount Hope Cemetery, which is on Florida Avenue near the Champaign-Urbana dividing line. When police couldn't find her there and learned where the call had been made from, police decided to check out cemeteries on the east side of Urbana, Ogle said.

Deputies are trying to locate the woman who called and are asking for the public's help, said Gary Turner, chief deputy of the Champaign County sheriff's office. The caller could have been the baby's mother or a friend of the baby's mother, Turner said.

Ogle testified that the infant was found wrapped in bloody adult clothing, had vernix — the coating on a newborn — all over her body and had six to eight inches of umbilical cord tied with what appeared to be kite string. There were leaves on her back side.

Turner said deputies had gotten "very sketchy" information Monday about the descriptions of vehicles seen in the cemetery Saturday morning before the baby was found.

Turner said the mother could be arrested for child endangerment, which is a class 4 felony with a maximum penalty of one to three years in prison, but it would be up to the state's attorney whether to charge her.

Hospital officials want to find the mother to inquire about the baby's health history.

Einhorn appointed the Department of Children and Family Services as temporary guardian.

Depew said the baby would likely be placed in a local foster care home once she's released from the hospital.

Information on the baby may be obtained by calling the DCFS Adoption Information Hotline at 800-572-2390.

---

From Saturday, November 11, 1995

Investigator pursues lead as baby leaves Car * Child's plight has callers dialing adoption hot line

By Mary Schenk

URBANA — Baby Crystal Hope, found abandoned in a cemetery east of Urbana a week ago, has been released from the hospital.

And on Friday a Champaign County sheriff's investigator was looking into a lead concerning the baby's mother.

Investigator Tim Voges said he planned to interview a couple from "outside the area" about a woman who was previously pregnant and now isn't.

An anonymous call was made to METCAD, the agency that dispatches local police to calls for service, about 10:15 a.m. on Nov. 4, saying that a baby could be found in Mount Hope Cemetery.

But the baby actually was found in Mount Olive Cemetery, midway between Urbana and St. Joseph on U.S. 150.

A cable television worker found her first and handed her over to deputies and paramedics who were close behind. There was evidence to suggest that she had been born in the cemetery.

She was suffering from the effects of being out in the cold, but apparently thrived in Carle Foundation Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.

The baby's court-appointed attorney, Fred Depew of Urbana, visited her there hours after his appointment Tuesday.

"She was very cute. She was having her hearing tested — which was normal — so I didn't get to hold her. She has 10 fingers, 10 toes. The doctor told me she weighed 6 pounds, 10 ounces. She was gaining weight steadily and is cute as a button," he said.

Depew said he felt a little cheated by not getting to hold his youngest client.

"I've got three boys. I've never gotten to hold a newborn girl," he said.

Although he hasn't been told exactly where the baby is, Depew said the procedure is usually to transfer babies to temporary foster homes. She was released Thursday. The state is hoping to terminate the rights of her parents so she may be adopted.

Meantime, a Department of Children and Family Services adoption hot line has received several calls about the baby.

Amy Bidwell answers the Adoption Information Hot Line in Chicago.

"We have gotten lots of calls. I probably got about 20 calls myself and there's three of us who answer the hot line. The bulk of the calls came Monday or Tuesday," she said.

Bidwell explained that the hot line doesn't have specific information about Crystal Hope but offers general information about adoption and has lists of agencies to which interested callers can be referred.

The number for adoption information is 800-572-2390. The phone is answered by DCFS workers from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. In other hours, messages are taken for DCFS by an answering service, Bidwell said.

From Monday, Nov. 27, 1995

Woman who gave birth, abandoned baby still sought

By The News-Gazette

URBANA — Crimestoppers of Champaign County is trying to find the woman who gave birth to a girl abandoned in a cemetery east of Urbana earlier this month.

On Nov. 4, a white child was found in the Mount Olive Cemetery near Mayview. Authorities went there in response to a call from an unidentified woman saying that the child had been left in a different cemetery.

Evidence at the scene indicated that the child was likely born at the cemetery.

The child is currently in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services. The state's attorney's office has taken steps to terminate her parents' legal rights so that she may be placed for adoption.

The Champaign County sheriff's office is requesting any information that might lead to the mother of the baby.

If you have information, call Crimestoppers at 373-TIPS (373-8477). Callers do not have to give their names and cash rewards are paid for information on this or other felony crimes or fugitives in the Champaign County area.

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From Tuesday, December 19, 1995

Abandoned infant's parents ruled unfit * Witnesses: No calls to claim baby left in cemetery

By Melissa Merli

URBANA — The unknown parents of Baby Crystal Hope, who abandoned her after her birth early November in a cemetery, have about 30 days to come forward and assume responsibility.

After hearing Monday from witnesses that no one has called to claim the child, Champaign County Judge Ann Einhorn ruled that the parents are unfit. She set a hearing for Jan. 17 on whether to terminate parental rights.

At that hearing Einhorn will look at what's best for the baby, who was found Nov. 4 at Mount Olive Cemetery on U.S. 150 west of St. Joseph. The judge also will review reports on the foster home where Baby Crystal has been living.

"She's doing exceptionally well, considering what brought her into the world," Marjorie Ramsey, an adoption worker for the Department of Children and Family Services, said after the hearing.

On the witness stand, Ramsey said DCFS hopes to have Baby Crystal adopted by the family with whom she is staying. DCFS declined to identify the foster parents or their location.

"She's doing wonderfully," said Karen Taylor, adoption coordinator for DCFS. "She's in extremely good health. She looks to be a very happy baby. She's doing very well under her current placement."

Taylor said DCFS received "hundreds" of calls from people asking about adopting Baby Crystal after news stories appeared on her being abandoned.

"We don't need any more calls; we've had so many," Taylor said, noting that the infant wouldn't be free for adoption anyway until after the judge terminated parental rights.

Taylor said DCFS hopes to move on the adoption as quickly as possible. However, the state must give notice of the January hearing in newspapers, as it did of the adjudicatory hearing that took place Monday.

Assistant State's Attorney Mick McAvoy said investigators don't have any promising leads as to the identity of Baby Crystal Hope's parents. "They're grasping at anything they get," he said.

Champaign County sheriff's Investigator Kris Bolt testified Monday that a confidential source told police a prostitute who used drugs might have been the mother. No drugs were found in the baby's system, however, Bolt said.

Bolt said he has spoken with several police officers who said they haven't seen the prostitute for a couple of months. Someone who knows the prostitute listened to a tape recording of the call a woman made to 911 about 10 a.m. Nov. 4, telling of the baby being in the cemetery.

"The person who listened to it said it was definitely not her," Bolt said.

Sources also mentioned a Mercer County couple that may have abandoned the baby. Bolt said he tracked down the couple, who denied the baby was theirs.

Sheriff's Capt. Walter Wolfe said investigators continue to follow whatever leads come in. Investigators checked a woman in the Quad Cities to no avail and are looking into one more lead that Wolfe declined to talk about.

"I don't know what they're going to do with this person if we ever do find her," Wolfe said.

Because his investigators are already working on a number of more serious crimes, Wolfe said, this case hasn't been assigned a high priority.

"We don't have enough people to service what we have now. If a lead comes in, we'll pursue it, but as far as spending a whole lot of time looking for (the parents), we haven't been," Wolfe said.

---

From Wednesday, January 17, 1996

Action puts "Baby Hope' closer to adoption

By The News-Gazette

URBANA — A baby abandoned in a cemetery in east Urbana in November may now be adopted by foster parents, barring any appeal by her biological parents.

Champaign County Judge Ann Einhorn this morning ruled that the rights of the parents of "Baby Crystal Hope" should be terminated.

The baby girl was found abandoned in the Mount Olive Cemetery midway between Urbana and St. Joseph on Nov. 4. It is believed she was born within hours of her discovery.

"It is a happy point in terms of the best interests of this child that she be able to look forward to a happy, secure, stable environment," Einhorn said. "Apparently nobody has come forward to claim to be either the mother or the father."

"The court wishes "Baby Girl Doe' a very happy life," she said. Marjorie Ramsey of the Department of Children and Family Services said the baby has been living with the foster family that intends to adopt her.

"She's doing very well," Ramsey said.

Ramsey said the law prohibits her from giving the family name or location.

The birth parents have 30 days from a written order being filed. If no appeal is filed, the foster parents can proceed with the adoption.

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