Boy Found in Grave Is Expected to Survive

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A newborn baby found buried alive in a shallow grave in Altadena remained hospitalized in serious condition Sunday but was expected to survive, authorities said.

"The baby has shown remarkable recovery," said Dr. Ricardo Liberman, the neonatal medical director at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, where the baby boy, born Saturday, is being treated. "It is really almost a miracle."

A woman jogging Saturday night with three dogs on a hiking trail near the intersection of Alpine Villa Drive and North Lake Avenue found the baby. The child was covered in dirt and barely breathing.

The jogger, Azita Milanian, runs regularly on the trail and said one of her dogs found the baby.

"He went after something and I thought it was a dead animal or creature," said Milanian, an engineer. "Then, as I looked deeper in the dirt, I could see it was a child."

Authorities estimate that the baby was in the ground for nearly an hour before he was found about 8:30 p.m. He was only partly buried, his feet sticking up through the dirt.

"When the two legs came sticking out of the ground, I thought it was some creature," Milanian said Sunday.

She started digging with her hands. Then, she said, "I screamed.

"There was a blue towel, and there was a baby in there."

Milanian dialed 911 on her cellular phone but was disconnected several times, she said. She finally flagged down a motorist, who drove to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department station in Altadena and told deputies about the baby. Meanwhile, she stayed with the infant.

While waiting, Milanian said, she wrapped the baby in a clean towel and did her best to comfort him.

"He grabbed my wrist and stopped crying," Milanian said. "It was very emotional. What kind of sick human would do something like that? He still had his umbilical cord hanging from his stomach."

Liberman, who said the baby was not more than a few hours old when he was buried, said the boy probably would not have survived much longer.

"He suffered severe hypothermia," Liberman said. "His body temperature [when he was brought to the hospital] was 80 degrees."

The baby, named "Baby Christian" by a Los Angeles County Department of Children's Services worker, was breathing Sunday with the help of a respirator and given drugs to control his blood pressure, Liberman said.

The full-term baby is African American and weighs 7 pounds, 12 ounces. He will be kept in the hospital for seven to 10 days and then turned over to Children's Services, a spokeswoman for Huntington Memorial said.

The hospital has received more than 20 calls from people interested in adopting the baby, spokeswoman Toni Miller said.

Liberman said he expects the child to recover. But the doctor said it will take a year or two to learn whether the child suffered any lingering effects.

"I feel pretty optimistic," he said.

A Sheriff's Department spokesman said this was the first time in memory that such a young infant was found abandoned and alive in an area the department patrols. In March, the body of a month-old girl was found floating in the California Aqueduct near Palmdale.

That same month, Los Angeles police officers found the bodies of two newborn babies in trash bins in two separate incidents near downtown Los Angeles.

Sheriff's Deputy Cruz Solis said detectives are searching for the boy's parents, and area hospitals have been asked to report any women seeking treatment for childbirth complications.

Milanian said it was fate that brought her to the baby.

"I was going to go dance with my friends but went running instead," Milanian said. "I was so happy that I was chosen by God to find this child. I hope he survives."

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