HOUSTON – A teenage mother who is accused of leaving her newborn son in a southeast Houston dumpster last week was arrested and charged Thursday, the Harris County District Attorney’s office said.
The 16-year-old Houston girl was charged with abandoning her child without intent to return, a second-degree felony under Texas law. If convicted, as a juvenile the maximum penalty would be jail until she turns 18. A court hearing for the teenager was held Friday.
The girl told Child Protective Services investigators that she didn’t know she was pregnant and gave birth in her bathtub on Feb 25. She said she thought the infant was dead so she placed him in a garbage bag and left him in a dumpster at the Windmill Lakes Apartments located in the 9900 block of Windmill Lakes Boulevard.
Carlos Michel, a maintenance worker who was throwing trash away at about 8:30 a.m., found the hours-old infant after hearing unusual noises. Michel dug deeper and found a white trash bag with the baby inside.
CPS officials said the infant is being called “Baby Carlos” in recognition of the man who saved his life.
“The message from this case is that it could have been so much worse, it is truly a miracle that this baby did not die“ Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said. “We are sad that the mother felt this desperate to take this action, but at the same time we need to send a message to the community: You just can’t do this.”
Anderson said she wants to spread awareness about the Safe Haven Law, or what is more commonly known as the Baby Moses Law in Texas. It was created because Texas once had the worst rate of infant abandonment in the nation.
“We do not want to see another baby dumped in this way,” she said. “If you leave your unharmed baby at a fire station, police station or hospital we will not prosecute you, the law prohibits us from prosecuting you.”
As the mother’s criminal charges were announced, a custody hearing was held for the baby. The mother had given investigators the name and number of a 22-year-old man who she said was the father.
“He refused to provide an address, either for work or for home. He claimed he didn’t know her. It was a very short conversation, let’s put it that way,” said Harris County Attorney David Masquelette, who represented CPS in the custody hearing.
If the man does not comply with orders to give his DNA, Masquelette said, “Well then, we’ll just have to try him in absentia.”
During the hearing the maintenance man who found the baby testified about how he found the child.
The next custody hearing for Baby Carlos is April 7. The infant was released from the hospital late Friday and was taken home by a foster family.