Woman Finds Infant on Doorstep; Frantic Attempt to Save Him Fails

Times Staff Writer

A loud knock and a ringing doorbell jarred Isabel Fernandez awake shortly after 2 a.m. Monday. But when she looked out the front door of her Downey home, she saw nothing--at first.

But when she looked down, there in the cold night air was a baby, lying naked inside two plastic bags.

Within two hours, the light-haired, blue-eyed newborn boy was pronounced dead at Downey Community Hospital, despite Fernandez’s frantic attempts to get help and the best efforts of doctors to save him.

“I didn’t know what to do,” the 37-year-old mother of four, who is pregnant with her fifth child, recalled several hours later.


Raced to Hospital

Because her husband, a Santa Fe Railway employee, was at work, she said she left her children alone in the house, jumped in her car and raced through the quiet residential streets to get the baby to the hospital emergency room.

Downey police said the infant was about half an hour old when he was abandoned in temperatures that dipped into the mid-40s.

A search was under way for the infant’s mother, Police Detective Larry Polin said. He would not say whether she might face criminal charges, pending the results of a coroner’s autopsy and further police investigation.

Polin said police believe the person who abandoned the baby deliberately chose the Fernandez home, because it is on a block that is hard to find, unless someone is familiar with the area.

Mother Sought

Officers canvassed the neighborhood Monday and planned to visit local schools today for information about “anybody who was considered full-term pregnant,” Polin said, “or any teen-ager who may have been pregnant.”

Fernandez, still upset and shaken as she recalled her experience later Monday morning, said she had no idea why her home was chosen.

“It must be somebody who knew I have a bunch of kids,” the homemaker said. “Somebody knew I would take care of it.”

The Downey church she attends, Calvary Chapel, has an adoption service, she added, and she wondered if the baby’s mother knew this and thought, “If I didn’t keep it, I’d know where to take it.”

The baby was inside a white plastic bag--the kind supermarkets use--that had been placed inside a larger, plastic garbage bag, Fernandez said.

At first, Fernandez said of the baby, “I didn’t even know it was alive. It wasn’t crying. It wasn’t moving . . . I thought somebody had left me a dead baby.”

But when she touched the baby’s arm, Fernandez felt warmth, and she realized he was still alive. She quickly changed out of her nightclothes and woke her 15-year-old daughter, telling her to mind the other children, who were still asleep.

Fernandez then ran with the baby, still in the bags, to her red Pontiac out front. She did not call 911, Fernandez said, because “sometimes the police take a long time to come,” and she thought she could get help faster.

Fernandez returned home while doctors worked for more than an hour and a half trying to save the infant.

Her husband arrived home from work and they talked about adopting the child. Then they learned that the baby had died about 4 a.m.

“I wish this had had a happier ending,” Fernandez said.

She said she did not sleep after she got home Monday morning.

“And I probably won’t sleep tonight either,” she added.