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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,

    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,

    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,

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

    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,

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

    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

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

      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

      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

      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

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

      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

      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

      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

      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

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

      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

      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

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

      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

      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

      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

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

      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

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

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

      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

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

      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
    MISSISSIPPI, 6/17/04
    Autopsy slated for infant found at

    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

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

      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

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

  • BABY DUMP NEWS, August 8, 2004–v 4

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

      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

      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.)

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

  1. Marley Greiner Says:

    I am floored by your many kind words about my work. I always feel like such a drudge. I am happy that you’ve been able to put my work to such good use! Recently Google flaked on me and I’ve received no alerts for over a month. I need to go back and try to find some new stuff.

    As you know, digging up this material is a nightmare. Often there will be an initial story or two, and then the story retires from the news cycle and it’s never revisited, so we have no way of knowing the disposition, outside of trying to find something in online court records. Of course, “official” state records are totally off since most states have no criteria for collection or standards of reporting. And, it’s nobody’s business anyway.

    I found my misplaced 2006 files and there were no news reports for that year, so you’ve got a accurate report here.

  2. Baby Love Child Says:

    Seriously, when I called you an “inadvertent” expert on this I meant it. It not merely that you have compiled the data, it’s the sheer amount of it you also keep stored in your brain, on tap, that we’ve had many conversations over.

    I’m just glad to see the first of what I hope may inspire other state “case studies” as there is a long sad story here, but as you and I know well, precious few are even talking about it, let alone compiling the raw bits and pieces of such.

    The “official” state tabulations are a wreck as we showed doing the Nebraska work on the big kid dumps years back.

    In any case, heartfelt thanks for going through 2006 and for ALL your hard work.

    It’s appreciated more than you know.

  3. Marley Greiner Says:

    I can’t wait to learn why Ohio’s SFY 2008 figures went from 23 cases to 9 in a week.

  4. Baby Love Child Says:

    Nor can I!

    With a tip of the hat to The Pretenders,

    A, O, Way to go Ohio.

    I went back to Ohio statistics, and 14 baby dumps were gone… .

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