Hurricane Irma baby dead: Mom now investigated for aggravated manslaughter

Baby wrapped in garbage bags, found in car's trunk
Posted at 4:45 PM, Oct 02, 2017

Wrapped in plastic bags, stuffed inside a cardboard box in the trunk of a silver Honda Civic, sitting in the parking lot of St. Mary’s Medical Center, is where detectives with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office say they found a 32-week-old baby boy. 

Now, court records recently filed in Palm Beach County show detectives are investigating the mother of the baby for aggravated manslaughter of a child.

Contact 5 investigators have decided to withhold the name of the mother since she has not been charged in the investigation, but the new records reveal how she kept the birth a secret.

According to court documents obtained by Contact 5, the mother gave “birth to a baby” at her home in unincorporated West Palm Beach on Sept. 10 during Hurricane Irma, approximately eight weeks premature. Reports say the mother did not notice any contractions and felt normal prior to giving birth.

It is unclear if she told anyone about the birth until four days later, on Sept. 14, when she drove to St. Mary’s Medical Center, where she was a patient, for medical attention. 

That is when court records say a nurse noticed the mother was no longer pregnant. 

At first, the mother told the nurse she “buried him in the backyard of her home”, but then she changed her story. Later, those same records say the mother told the nurse the baby was actually inside the trunk of her vehicle.

PBSO detectives were called in shortly after the mother’s confession, and she was interviewed about her hurricane-birth four days earlier. 

During the investigation, the mother told deputies “the baby was [born] not breathing and the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck twice.” It is unclear if the baby was born dead or alive, but officials are waiting on a toxicology report which they say will determine that fact.

The mother told detectives she cut the umbilical cord, placed the baby in a white garbage bag, and threw away evidence of the birth in the trash. After the birth, she “planned on burying the baby in the backyard but did not get a chance”, according to court records. 

(Scroll down to read redacted search warrant affidavits filed in Palm Beach County.)

The mother told detectives she kept the baby in her room inside a garbage bag, and later put him in a cardboard box, because “the baby began to smell.” The mother told detectives she put the baby in garbage bags, put him inside the box, taped it shut and wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in the trunk of her 2002 silver Honda Civic.

Additionally, the mother told detectives she would keep the box with her “so the baby would not get too hot” and brought the box inside her workplace and her bedroom when she was not driving. It is unclear where the mother is currently employed. 

According to PBSO Public Information Officer Teri Barbera, detectives are waiting on a report from the Medical Examiner’s Office before they can move forward in the investigation. 

The Department of Children and Families is also working in conjunction with PBSO, however they could not comment further, citing an active investigation and confidentiality restrictions. “DCF has an open child death investigation into this tragedy and will continue to coordinate with law enforcement on this case,” said David Frady, press secretary for DCF.

Prior to giving birth, DCF investigators say the mother only confirmed her pregnancy at St. Mary’s Medical Center one to three weeks before. Doctors estimated a gestation age of 29 to 33 weeks.

DCF says the mother did not have prior interaction with the child welfare system.