Police are investigating the death of the hours-old newborn who was found Wednesday in a wooded area in the back of the Sierra Forest Apartment complex in the 6600 block of Mableton Parkway in Mableton around 4:15 p.m.
The mother, a 13-year-old girl, was arrested Thursday on charges of felony murder, cruelty to children in the first degree and concealing a death.
A preliminary autopsy revealed no signs of trauma on the newborn, but a cause of death won’t be determined until a medical examiner performs a full autopsy.
According to police, the teenager gave birth to the child in her home while her parents slept in the next room late Wednesday night and went to sleep. When she awoke hours later, she discovered the baby had died. Some time later, the baby was put in a shoebox in a wooded area in the back of the apartment complex.
A friend of the newborn’s parents told administrators at the school they attended the burial. The administrators reported the story to campus police, who contacted Cobb Police.
Cobb Police spokesman Sgt. Dana Pierce wouldn’t identify the school the parents attended, but said everyone involved followed protocol in the matter.
He said the teenager is facing a murder charge because she didn’t provide care or seek help for the newborn.
“Because the mother failed to get it properly nourished or get it help, the child didn’t have an opportunity to thrive,” Pierce said.
If the mother had notified authorities about the baby’s death, she would not necessarily be facing charges, Pierce said.
“There are places where we can put that infant where it will be raised by the state or a foster family … but you cannot fail to report the death of another human being,” Pierce said.
State Rep. Judy Manning (R-Marietta) said situations like this one are why she supported the Safe Place for Newborns Act, also called the Safe Haven Law, that went into effect in 2002 in Georgia.
“It’s never that mothers don’t want the baby,” she said. “They aren’t criminals, they are just in a situation where there is no alternative. It is not abandonment, but saving the life of a child.”
The law allows the mother, father, family or friend of a child to take a newborn to a medical facility and turn the child over without recourse.
“At that time, the staff person should ask for the mother’s and father’s names, but they are not obligated to give that information if they don’t want to,” Manning said. “The intent is to place these children in homes where people want them so that they are up for adoption.”
The Department of Family and Children Services is typically responsible for taking the child into custody within 24 hours.
“This is for people who find themselves in a situation that they just cannot cope and, rather than leave a child in a Dumpster or in a shoebox or wherever, it’s an opportunity to place the child in the hands of caring family,” Manning said. “It is meant to be something that is positive and helpful to these children who for no fault of their own are put in a bad situation.”
Doug Goodwin, a Cobb Schools spokesman, said information about the law is not part of the state curriculum in the public school’s Human Growth and Development class and therefore was not part of the lesson.
DFCS spokesperson Jackie Tate said 153 children were reported under the Safe Haven Law in Georgia between Jan. 1, 2003, and Oct. 17 of this year.
Tate was unable to provide the exact number of children reported in Cobb before press time Friday.
Iesha Morris, a mother of two who has lived at the south Cobb apartment complex for about a year, said she didn’t know the teenager but said she’s heard rumors about the incident.
Morris said she learned about it Wednesday night between 6 and 7 p.m. when she saw police officers searching the neighborhood.
“At first I thought they were searching for somebody, like someone took off running from the cops,” she said. “I didn’t ask any questions. They were just walking around looking and asked how I was doing.”
Morris said there were approximately eight officers canvassing the complex. No other residents answered their doors Friday afternoon.
Morris said she was surprised by the news of the infant death.
“I would have never thought that would happen over here. I was shocked,” she said. “I love my kids, I love kids in general, so that was a shock.”