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A compilation of Mississippi legalized child abandonment cases and “safe haven” failures

This post must first begin with an expression of gratitude, because this post itself is little more than a compilation of the work Bastardette has done over the course of years with some technical support (and formatting help) from my partner, thrown in for good measure.

In the course of writing my post about the baby dump law in Mississippi, After almost a decade, Mississippi “safe haven” legalized child abandonment scheme still fails, last week, I dropped a quick e-mail on Marley Greiner/Bastardette to ask about any history relating to the dumps in Mississippi she might have or overview statistics she might have pulled together in the course of her work.

For years Marley compiled and authored the Baby Dump News (or BDN,) a weekly e-mailed round up of media reports and other information pertinent to newborn abandonment, infanticide, “safe haven”/”Baby Moses” legislation, and related matters.

As many states don’t compile statistics on these matters, and even those that do had numbers that time and again proven incorrect when compared with even newspaper reports, Marley’s tracking during this first decade of the dump laws provided critically important documentation.

In many ways, she tracked the rise and growth of the baby dump industry, it’s proponents, it’s opponents, and the week in and week out unfolding saga through webpages, blogs, emails, legislative hearings and newspaper articles. In the course of this tracking, she became somewhat an “inadvertent” expert on what was actually happening across the country in relation to such.

He response to my brief email stunned me, within mere hours of my request, she had come back to me with all the issues of the BDN with information about cases in Mississippi as well as additional places to search for cases. (This was more than I possibly could have hoped for.)

With the help of my partner, Mike, we went back through our digital archive of the Baby Dump News (as to date, only archives from 2007 are available online) and pulled these news reports.

Obviously these cannot by their very nature give a full picture of what has gone on in Mississippi as some untold number of neonaticides are simply never discovered.

In other cases, those of abandoned kids, or bodies found, again, it then becomes a question of whether or not the story was reported, or even if it was reported, whether the news article was found in the course of Marley’s research.

There may well be other cases that were reported on not cataloged below.

Some states have routinely been folding border babies, (kids born in hospitals and never taken home by their parents) into their  “safe haven saves” statistics, but in theory at least, according to one of the articles Marley found,  the Mississippi law should not be including them in the totals.

As to whether or not the state’s totals contain other oddities or not, we’ll likely never know. Reporters simply take them at face value.

These days, tools like google alerts (which first went live in 2003) have certainly made doing this kind of research much easier, but there’s still no substitute for solid research and looking beyond those numbers at what the genuine circumstances involve.

Unfortunately what we’ve found in other states is that even if border babies were not originally folded into “safe haven” statistics, over the years they may come to be.

So bearing in mind the limitations of what these links represent, here is what I’ve been able to mine back out of Marley’s work:

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, June 13, 2002 V. 2, #20

    Jackson Clarion-Ledger, May 22, 2002
    Life sentence in death of newborn is upheld

    JACKSON-- Conviction of Lindsay Kathryn Welch upheld by Mississippi Court of Appeals.  Welch was a student at Mississippi State when she gave birth in her dorm room.  Prosecutors claim she let baby die and then put the body in the trash.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, October 27, 2002, v2, #40

    WAPT-TV, Jackson, October 25, 2002
    Newborn drop-off law nets 6 babies in first year

    JACKSON--Six babies left in Mississippi hospitals since state's safe haven law went into effect more than a year ago.  Four left in Hinds County, one in Union County and one in Harrison county.  (No mention if these were authentic safe haven drops or boarder baby abandonments.) One has been adopted and the rest are in fostercare waiting for adoption finalization.  Gloria Thornton Salters, of DHS, says without any apparent authority, that if not for the law, the children would have been left to die.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, November 3, 2002, v2, #41

    Biloxi Clarion-Ledger, October 29, 2002
    Newborn drop-off law saves 6 lives in state

    BILOXI--Longer version of last week's article.  Under law hospitals can ask questions about child' health, but cannot ask who the mother is or where she is from.  Law does not include mothers who give birth in a hospital and decide to abandon their children there.  In those cases, mothers are required to be registered at hospital under their names and to sign waivers to turn over their babies.   If mother wants to reclaim baby shortly after legal abandonment state reportedly will work with her and have her attend classes.  None of the mothers who left babies under the state's program have tried to get them back.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, November 17, 2002, v2, #43

    Jackson Clarion-Ledger, November 16, 2002
    Conviction stands in baby's death

    JACKSON--Mississippi Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal of Lindsay Kathryn Welch in the death of her newborn found in a trashcan in 1999.  Claimed illegal search of her garbage left outside of home after police received tip about baby.  Welch, a former U. of Mississippi student is doing 8 years in prison.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS,  January 19, 2003, v3 #3

    Jackson Clarion-Ledger, January 18, 2003
    Police hunt for body of infant believed discarded

    CLEVELAND--Police search landfill for infant believed to have been hauled there after being placed in dumpster.  19-year old Delta State University student triggered search after she sought medical treatment shortly after giving birth.  Says baby was stillborn and born off campus.  Mother, described as distraught, is cooperating with authorities.  According to article, as of October 2002, 6 babies have been dropped-off under the safe haven program.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, March 16, 2003, v3 #11

    Jackson Clarion-Ledger, March 16, 2003
    Abandoned-baby laws criticized

    JACKSON--Mississippi Special Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Carroll Hocker disagrees with EBD report.  Says 9 infants, 6 of them in 2002, have been safely anonymously abandoned in state.  Feels that they weren't found dead is good sign.  7 have been adopted and 2 are in prospective homes.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, November 30, 2003, v3 #48

    Jackson Sun Herald, November 25, 2003
    Mississippi calls newborn program a success

    JACKSON--Puff piece on MS SH law.  Claims that 13 babies have been dropped off and another 3 were dropped off and retrieved.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, April 25, 2004, v4 #18

    1. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, April 20, 2004
      Dead infant found in bag

      JACKSON--Newborn found dead in garbage bag at Madison County landfill.  Unclear how baby died or how long it was in bag.

    2. WLBT-TV, Jackson, April 20, 2004
      State law protects unwanted newborns

      JACKSON--Review of state SH law and its history.  Ol' Miss Medical Center clinical nurse Kelly Joyner says several infants have been dropped off since law went into effect July 2001, including one in March.  Special Asst. AG, Elizabeth Hocker says that 11 babies "have been turned over to  hospitals instead of abandoned."

    3. WLBT-TV, Jackson, April 21, 2004
      Baby in garbage had just been born

      JACKSON--Autopsy indicates baby was suffocated and case now treated as homicide.  Police have a few phone tips; mother could face capital murder charge.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, May 2, 2004-, v4 #19

    1. WLBT-TV, Jackson, April 25, 2004
      Deceased newborn found at dump site

      JACKSON--Update on landfill case.  (BDN v4 #18).  Police ask public assistance in solving case.  Reward of up to $1000 offered through Crime Stoppers.

    2. WLBT-TV, Jackson, April 26, 2004
      Cops hope DNA will identify infant

      JACKSON--Detectives following up tips received after Crime Stoppers broadcast. DNA tests ordered on body. Jackson Police Department planning funeral and burial.

    3. University of Mississippi Daily Mississippian, April 28, 2004
      ERs take unwanted newborns

      OXFORD--Officials publicize state's SH law.  Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jackson has had at least one drop-off.  Hospital doesn't offer counseling services for mother but does referrals.  Family Crisis Services in Oxford  says women who SH are "under a lot of stress" and FCS would offer them counseling services.   "We would ask them to sit down and discuss the reasons why they're doing this.  We want to offer them counseling before they make such a drastic decision."  Assistant Police Chief says if women tried to drop off baby at police station, they would be referred to FCS.  Fire chief says he has never had an abandoned baby case in 32 years with department.

    4. WLBT-TV, Jackson, April 30, 2004
      Donations pour in for newborn's burial

      JACKSON--Jackson-area residents continue to donate funds for funeral arrangements for baby.  Plot donated; Peoples Funeral home offers services and other arrangements; music teacher  purchases burial outfit.  Police chief believes baby may have come from Madison or Rankin County.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, May 16, 2004, v4 #21

    1. WLBT-TV, Jackson, May 12, 2004
      Services held for abandoned infant

      JACKSON--Update on landfill /Baby John Paul Doe case BDN v4 # 18, 19, 20). Account of baby's funeral; quotes from those who attended.

    2. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, May 12, 2004
      Tiny casket weighs heavy in "significance"

      JACKSON--Feature on Angela Washington, who returned home from hospital after suffering miscarriage on day she learned of discovery of  Baby John Paul Doe's body.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, May 30, 2004, v4 #23

    1. Biloxi Sun-Herald, May 20, 2004
      Baby boy abandoned at church door

      GULFPORT--Newborn boy,  Baby Matthew,  left on doorstep of St. Matthew Evangelical Lutheran Church.  County Prosecutor says he's been in DA's office for 14 years and never heard of an abandoned baby before. Police Lt. Alfred Sexton says that abandonment didn't comply with SH law, but may be in the "spirit of the law."  Child welfare workers say it is usual for babies to be abandoned in public places; usually left in hospitals.

    2. WLOX-TV, Biloxi, May 23, 2004
      Counselor wants compassion for mother of abandoned baby

      GULFPORT--Rachel Nilsen, from Pregnancy Resources of Mississippi in Ocean Springs  hopes that authorities aren't hard on person who left baby at church.  Admits it would have been better  to drop  off baby in "the care of a responsible adult" but believes there's a "real possibility that this person felt that they could not care for this child and they wanted  to put this child in some good hands."

    3. Biloxi Sun Herald, May 25, 2004
      Charges in baby case await investigation

      GULFPORT--DA declines to press charges in Baby Matthew case pending outcome of final investigation.  Mother known but not yet named.  Unclear if she is asking Youth Court for custody and if charges will be filed after Youth Court judge rules in case.  Relative of mother called Sun Herald on Saturday saying mother was very scared and panicked and asked if she could be arrested for abandonment.  First baby abandonment in Harrison County since 1993 when a girl was found dead on I 10.  DHS says 14 babies have been SH since law went into effect.

    4. Biloxi Sun Herald, May 29, 2004
      Baby law not well-known

      GULFPORT--Info piece on Mississippi SH law; complains that schools don't teach how to abandon your baby in the curriculum.  Anon. caller to Sun Herald asked where they could find poster and hotline number, and paper finally learned that Attorney General is responsible for publicity.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, June 13, 2004, v 4, #25

    1. Biloxi Sun Herald, June 8, 2004
      Focus on drop-off law grows

      JACKSON--Update on landfill/ Baby John Paul Doe case (BDN v4 # 18, 19, 20, 21).  DNA evidence rules out suspect in newborn's death.  No details.

    2. Jackson Clarion Ledger, June 9, 2004
      Police back to square one in dead baby case

      JACKSON--Information on state's SH law.  Says 14 babies have been "saved" since law went into effect 7/2001.  Beth Casey, counselor for Harrison County Youth Court wants SH publicity to target high school and college students.  "Your high schoolers and college kids who become pregnant all too often try to conceal their pregnancy rather than tell someone.  People need to know that churches are not a safe place according to state law."

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, June 20, 2004, v 4 #25
    MISSISSIPPI, 6/17/04
    Autopsy slated for infant found at UMC

    JACKSON--Body of newborn girl found by workers sorting sheets at University Medical Center; not full term and officials suspect it was stillborn.  Looking for parents.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, June 27, 2004, v4 #26

    1. WLBT-TV. Jackson, June 21, 2004
      Dead baby at UMC may have been put in laundry accidentally

      JACKSON--Update on UMC case.  (BDN v4 # 26).  Body found in laundry determined to be stillborn; may have been placed in laundry by mistake.  Investigation continues.

    2. Jackson Clarion-Ledger, June 23, 2004
      Investigation confirms stillborn mistaken placed in UMC laundry

      JACKSON--Simultaneous stillbirths at UMC caused mix-up which led to one body going to laundry instead of pathology.  No criminal charges expected.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, August 8, 2004--v 4 #33

    1. Greenwood Commonwealth, August 3, 2004
      Woman suspected of killing her baby arrested by police

      BELZONI--Lasalle Denise Brown, 24. arrested on Humphreys County warrant in investigation of disappearance of newborn.  State HS called authorities when they learned that her newborn could not be located after Brown's boyfriend, Calvin Stowers, 39, removed baby from residence and she had not seen the baby since.  Stowers already charged with murder and is in jail.

    2. Biloxi Sun Herald, August 6, 2004
      Search suspended for body of missing newborn

      BELZONI--Police suspend search for baby's body; claim they have enough evidence to carry case.  Brown says she saw Stowers put baby in garbage can.

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, May 29, 2005

    Spero News, May 23, 2005
    Mississippi pro-lifers intervene

    NO DATELINE--Feature on Mississippi anti-abortion radical Roy McMillan who was found naked and abandoned at birth in a shoe box on the steps of a church.

2006- still working on data.

2007- (online)- Marley appears not to have found any articles relating to Mississippi.

2008- BDN ceases publication. Marley was kind enough to search through her personal files for that year, but has found no articles relating to Mississippi (yet).

2009- still working, but did send across the sad case of  Theresa Clincy  who abandoned 2 kids: 1, a 3-month old on a porch. The kids were able to remain in the family, living with her sister according to the last few piece.

There are a number of articles about the case and WAPT in particular had a fair amount of coverage.

2010- I will handle this in a separate post (or posts) later this week as the latest cases certainly deserve a post (if not posts) all their own.

But the (at least) three cases I’ll be working with will be those of:

Again, the post really represents the work Marley has done over the course of a decade. I simply wanted to provide some background context to the Mississippi piece I was writing. On any one of these cases there are a number of articles, some of which are listed here, some of which aren’t.

Mississippi is but one case study of how these laws simply have not achieved what they promised they would. Children are still abandoned and dead babies are still being found. Women are still going to jail and families are still being torn apart.

Kids are being stripped of their identities, family history, context, medical histories etc. in a gross violation of their human rights.

Even of those women who do bring their kids to a baby dump site, their post-birth health and safety, let alone parental rights, physical and psychological needs are all too often considered secondary to “catching” a kid (most of whom, in Mississippi at least, appear to be entering the adoption system.)

It’s a mess, but a mess far too many people are just fine with.

(At least until some of these kids grow up and are old enough to speak on their own behalf, that is.)

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