A prematurely born baby, who doctors said was about two hours old, was found alive Saturday morning, abandoned in a zipped-up in a suitcase next to a trash compactor at a Texas apartment complex, authorities said Tuesday.
A female resident of the Monterra Pointe Apartments in Arlington was throwing out some trash just before 8:15 a.m. Saturday when she heard a baby’s cries and spotted a small black suitcase.
"She opened the suitcase, at which point in time she saw a beautiful baby boy," Arlington police Detective Morgan Speer told reporters at a news conference. Speer, who works in the department's crimes against children unit, is leading the case.
>> Related story: DNA cold case: Louisiana woman charged in 25-year-old murder of ‘Baby Jane Doe’
The African American newborn, whose umbilical cord and placenta were still attached, was responsive when he was found. First responders took the boy to Medical City Arlington for treatment and evaluation.
"The nurse at MCA said the baby was doing well, that he was cold when he was brought in and that he was low on oxygen, but as a preemie, he was doing well," Speer said.
The baby was four to six weeks premature, the detective said. Despite his early arrival, he was in good health and had no visible injuries on his body.
"This baby was very blessed," Speer said, smiling for a moment. "He was 4 pounds, 12 ounces, and everybody is just happy that he is alive today."
The timing of the woman’s find was crucial.
"Once again, talking how blessed that baby was, the maintenance staff there at the apartment complex, they normally put everything (left around the dumpster) in the trash compactor in the mornings and compact it," Speer said. "And he was late for work that day."
Watch the news conference below, courtesy of NBC Dallas-Forth Worth.
Investigators have nicknamed the boy Jason. Speer said the officer who came up with the name, as well as several other investigators, have already asked about the possibility of adopting the child.
“I don’t know if that’s just the name he decided he liked or what, but that’s what’s been sticking,” the detective said.
Police officers and detectives canvassed the apartment complex where Jason was found, speaking to nearly all the residents and checking on the welfare of residents who were known to be pregnant, Speer said. Hospitals and emergency clinics in the area were also notified to be on the lookout for any patients who appeared to have recently given birth but did not have a baby to show for it.
“We’ve also looked at some surveillance video that was obtained from Adams Elementary School,” the detective said. “However, the dumpster is out of view of all their surveillance video. So there has not been anything from that video that we can link to any mother or any suspect at this point in time.”
The main concern of investigators is the mother’s safety at this point, Speer said.
"We don't know if she's OK. We don't know where she's at," Speer said. "That is our No. 1 concern at this point in time, is her safety."
The detective said their other major concern is that, without the mother or other family members to speak up for Jason, doctors have no idea of the parents’ medical history.
“In order for us to make sure he is properly cared for, it’s important that we know who the mom is,” she said.
Texas was the first state to set up what is commonly known as a Safe Haven law, which allows parents to surrender unwanted newborns to the state without criminal penalties. All 50 states have some form of the law, which typically requires the babies to be turned over at designated locations deemed to be safe for them.
Several states, including Texas, also refer to their laws as “Baby Moses” laws.
Speer said Tuesday that Texas' Baby Moses law allows parents to turn over infants younger than 60 days old at hospitals, fire stations, emergency medical stations and health clinics.
“You can tell that person there at the clinic or the fire station that you want to leave your baby with Safe Haven,” Speer said. “At that point in time, it’s confidential and you can leave the baby there. They may ask a few questions, such as family and medical history, in order to make sure that baby is well cared for, but those are the places you can drop off a baby if he’s less than 60 days old.”
Speer said child welfare workers saw Jason Tuesday and said he was doing well. He remained on oxygen, but doctors and nurses were beginning to wean him off of it. He remained responsive and was recovering well from his ordeal.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services caseworkers were scheduled to meet with a judge on Wednesday, at which time they were expected to be granted custody of the baby. Once he is discharged from the hospital, he will be placed in foster care, Speer said.
When reporters asked about the woman who found the child, Speer said she did not have a lot of detail about her, but said she knew the woman was happy that the boy was doing well.
"I know that the first thing she told her aunt is, 'Can I keep him?'" Speer said with a smile. "I know she was really concerned for his welfare."
Police officials on Tuesday released photos of the black suitcase, along with images of a leopard print blanket the newborn was wrapped in and a red scarf found with him in the luggage. The suitcase, which has a combination lock on the handle, is inscribed with the words “Chong Ping” on a silver plate on the front and on the handle.
Its dark tan interior, which is emblazoned with the brand logo Jingpin Xiangpao, appeared to be stained in the photos. Speer confirmed that there was blood in the suitcase.
She said the luggage was still being processed Tuesday for evidence, including fingerprints.
The blanket was bloodstained in the photos as well. The tasseled scarf had what appeared to be a faint paisley print on it.
Investigators initially were mum about the container Jason was found in, saying they were withholding details because the information was something that only the person who abandoned the baby would know. Speer said they ultimately decided it was more important to find the woman who gave birth and confirm that she was not in danger.
"Anything that can help us find the mother is important, and that's why we're releasing that today," she said.
Jason's case is also being handled by the Alliance for Children, a nonprofit organization in Tarrant County that helps coordinate child abuse cases among the various local law enforcement agencies, child welfare, Cook Children's Medical Center and the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office. Julia Braun, with the Alliance for Children, told reporters that many in the community are questioning how Jason can be helped.
“Unfortunately, this child is not the only case that we see in the community of Arlington,” Braun said. “We see cases every day of children that have experienced trauma, and so we would ask that anybody who is looking to support this child, along with other people in the community that need your support, we are accepting diapers and wipes at any of our centers.”
Those who wish to help can also find more information on the organization's website at AllianceForChildren.org.
When answering questions from reporters Tuesday, Speer reiterated multiple times how lucky Jason was that he was found so soon after being left next to the trash compactor.
"He hadn't been there very long before the complainant found him crying," the detective said. "Officers afterwards, when they got on scene, (found) he wasn't crying very loudly anymore.
“If she had showed up just minutes or hours later, that baby might not have been in the condition where he could have cried out for help.”