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Retarded Boy Abandoned Amid Signs of Caring

Times Staff Writer

A T-shirt, a baptismal medal and a wheelchair sold by a New York man nine years ago are among the few clues to the identity of a crippled and severely retarded boy abandoned Sunday in front of a home for mentally disabled adults near Saugus.

“We’ve been working two days on this case and we haven’t gotten anywhere,” said Detective Dennis Carroll of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “If we don’t find the parents, he’ll live and die without anyone knowing who he is.”

The boy, who appears to be about 8 years old, was discovered about 5:30 p.m., sitting in an adult wheelchair at Jewell Trumbo’s Welcome Home in the 15500 block of Sierra Highway. Investigators said the boy is Latino, had no identification and is unable to speak.

Evidence of Love

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“He appears to have been well cared for,” said Trumbo, who found the youth in front of the home he runs for autistic adults. “His clothes were clean. While he was here we had to change his diapers, and there was no diaper rash at all. His hair was just cut because there were a few clippings around his neck.

“Whoever was caring for him must have loved him, but were just unable to cope with it anymore and didn’t know where to turn,” he said. “They could have left him out in the desert. They left him here because they knew we would take care of him.”

Los Angeles police and county sheriff’s investigators assigned to details for child abuse and missing persons said they could recall no other case where a mentally or physically handicapped youth was abandoned.

Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Ford said that, although it is not unusual for infants to be abandoned at birth or for elderly people to wander away from board-and-care facilities, the abandonment of a child older than an infant “happens so infrequently . . . that, when it does occur, it really hits home.”

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Wearing Sweat Shirt

Carroll said the boy found in Saugus was wearing a red, black and yellow sweat shirt over a pale yellow T-shirt stenciled with a dolphin jumping through a hoop and the phrase, “Herrera’s Fishing Club.”

A gold medal about the size of a dime and engraved with the words “Lake of Beseda” hung around his neck, Carroll said.

On the front of the medal, he said, was depicted a man’s head emerging from water, a hand pouring water over the head, and a dove. The numbers 19/3/78 were etched on the back.

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“Some countries outside the United States put the day before the date,” Carroll said, “so we figure that’s the date he was born: March 19, 1978.”

But that’s about all detectives know about the boy, who is being housed at the MacLaren Children’s Center in El Monte.

Fishing Club Not Found

Investigators working with the state Department of Fish and Game were unable to locate a Herrera’s Fishing Club. “I even checked my sources in Mexico to see if it was down there,” Carroll said.

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The medal was apparently part of a baptismal ceremony, he said, although detectives have been unable to locate Lake Beseda.

Dental charts and fingerprints have been sent to Sacramento to be compared with those on file at the state Department of Justice, Carroll said, noting that the process will take a while.

The wheelchair was traced to a New York dealer whom investigators declined to identify. Carroll said the dealer sold the chair about nine years ago and was checking his records in an effort to identify the purchaser.

The detective does not believe that the wheelchair will prove to be a valuable clue, however, because it was manufactured for an adult and was probably sold several times before it was bought for the abandoned boy.

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Trumbo said the boy was left near one of two houses on the five-acre grounds of the home. “We were all at the other house at the time,” he said. “We heard dogs barking at about 4 o’clock, but we were expecting company and figured that’s what it was.”

Trumbo said he found the boy about 90 minutes later.

No Tears

“He wasn’t crying or anything,” Trumbo said. “He appeared to be oblivious to what was going on.”

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Trumbo said he pushed the wheelchair into the house and went back outside “to see if I could find if somebody left a note or something.” That is when he spotted a tan compact car making a U-turn on the highway in front of his property, he said, and recalled he had seen the same car earlier, parked nearby.

Trumbo said he could not see the license plate or tell how many people were in the car because it was too far away.

The boy appears healthy, Trumbo said, although his feet turn inward and his right leg is deformed.

“We had a ball, and he would reach down and roll it back and forth,” Trumbo said. He added that the boy laughed at the cartoon characters when he saw them on the TV set tuned to the Disney Channel.

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“He hollered like he knew who they were,” Trumbo said. “He was happy.”


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