A 15-year-old Oxnard girl was charged Friday with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment for allegedly leaving her newborn baby to die in a hospital trash can.
But Ventura County Deputy Dist. Atty. Saundra T. Brewer said she wants probation for the girl, not time in custody.
“We want her to be required to get counseling for this,” Brewer said. “We just want her to get the message that what she did was wrong.”
Investigators said the girl, who was not identified because she is a juvenile, gave birth to a 3 pound, 9 ounce baby girl June 24 in a restroom at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard. The teen-ager had gone to the hospital emergency room about 4:45 a.m. for treatment of leg pain.
When she returned to the emergency room, the girl explained her bleeding by saying her menstrual period had begun, police said.
She was admitted to the hospital for the leg pain and passed the placenta in her hospital room, but she denied that she had given birth. Doctors notified police and the coroner’s office, asking for reports of an abandoned baby.
The girl was released from the hospital the following morning. That night, the baby’s body was found when a janitor emptied the trash can.
The girl eventually told police that she had given birth and that she had thought the infant was dead. Frightened, she put the baby in a plastic bag and left her in the bottom of the trash can, police said.
An autopsy showed that the infant had breathed a short time before dying of asphyxiation.
“This baby was alive,” Brewer said, adding that the infant was born after seven to eight months of gestation. “The neonatologist said she had a 95% chance of survival if she had gotten medical attention.”
As for the two-month delay in filing the charges, Brewer said her supervisors were cautious because of the unusual nature of the case. She said involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment are the charges she recommended.
“I feel these are appropriate charges, ones we can certainly prove,” she said.
The law defines involuntary manslaughter as an unlawful killing without malice that occurs “without due caution and circumspection.” It is punishable by two to four years in prison. Child endangerment is defined as placing a child in circumstances likely to cause injury or death and is punishable by a county jail term or up to six years in prison.
“We are not seeking to punish the girl so much as help her,” Brewer said. “We think counseling could be of assistance to her. At the time she did this, she did not know how to act appropriately, or she decided not to.”
The girl will be arraigned in mid-September, Brewer said, and a public defender will be appointed then if the girl cannot afford an attorney.
“I recognize that the girl would have been stressed and frightened when this occurred,” Brewer said. “But by not filing charges, we would be saying her conduct was OK, and that would be a disaster.”
About a month after the infant girl was abandoned at the hospital, a baby boy was found dead at the bottom of a portable toilet in Saticoy. Police suspect that the mother gave birth in the toilet while working in an onion field and dropped the baby into the chemicals and fecal matter at the bottom. The woman is believed to have fled to Mexico.
“We just don’t want this to happen again,” Brewer said. “The message to other girls or women in this situation has to be that this cannot happen. They cannot throw living human beings away.”