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Baby abandoned in the woods helped save her own life, Polk Sheriff says

The crying alerted neighbors who called 911. Now, deputies are searching for the newborn's mom.
Gregorio Ordonez
Posted at 2:18 PM, Jan 29, 2023

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Monday, Polk County deputies spent hours asking residents of a Mulberry mobile home park, to help them identify the woman who left her newborn in the woods, right after giving birth.

“It’s just so sad that this woman didn’t feel she could go anywhere. That she had no out and the baby is the one that’s going to pay for it their whole life,” said Donna Vaughan.

Saturday at midnight, a noise coming from outside Magdalena Gregorio Ordonez's home got her attention.

At first, she thought it was the cry of a cat. She was wrong.

The cries continued, so she went to investigate. In the patch of woods behind her home near Mulberry, she found a newborn baby laying in thick brush on the ground.

She called 911.

“I was really surprised that they left a poor little girl on the [ground]," said her daughter, 12-year-old Eulalia Gregorio.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the newborn girl — who still had an umbilical cord and placenta attached to her — was left for dead by her mom just an hour or so after her birth. Deputies responded to the Regal Loop Mobile Home Park at 1:47 a.m. and helped rush the baby to the hospital.

“It was in the low 50s," said Judd. "It was very cool that evening.”

According to Judd, the baby’s mom is still unknown, even after deputies went door-to-door at the mobile home park off Bailey Road where the six-and-a-half-pound girl was found.

“We have worked throughout the community, and no one claims to know who the mother is," the sheriff said. “So far, no one has cooperated — if they knew anything."

Sheriff Judd said what he does know is that there are thousands of better ways to surrender a baby.

According to Florida's Safe Haven law, babies seven days old or younger can be surrendered at any hospital, fire station, or EMS station that has a full-time staff.

“You can literally walk up, hand that baby to a firefighter, and drive off, and never disclose who you are, and there’s no criminal liability to that," Judd explained.

The Healthy Start Coalition of Hardee, Highlands, and Polk Counties supports healthy pregnancies and babies by providing a maternal and child health system of care through community partnerships.

“If a mom connects with us, they fill out the risk screen at the doctor’s office, we can provide education and resources to mom. Hopefully, something like this can be prevented in the future,” said Executive Director Charlene Edwards.

As for the baby found in the wooded area, except for a few bug bites, Judd said she is doing exceptionally well.

"I have named her Angel Grace LNU. She's as beautiful as an angel. It is by the grace of God that she is not dead. And LNU is Last Name Unknown," he said.

The sheriff, though, said the baby's fate would have been different if not for her powerful lungs that got the attention of Gregorio Ordonez and her family.

“Those people are heroes," Judd said. "True heroes.”

Judd said when the mother is identified, she will likely be charged with child neglect.

“We will hold her accountable because she left this child abandoned in the woods, ostensibly, to die," he said. “We’ve already taken the appropriate DNA samples, and we will be at the FDLE lab in Tampa first thing in the morning with the DNA samples.”

Call the Polk County Sheriff's Office at 863-298-6200 if you know where the child's mother is.