Search For Infant's Body Called Off

By: Autria Godfrey Email
By: Autria Godfrey Email

January 30, 2007

Police decided around noon today to end the search for the infant they had been searching for since Sunday night because of the near impossible probability of finding evidence that can be evaluated by the state coroner.

However the questions remain over the mother and her mental state. Questions continue as to how and why a young mother would dispose of her newborn baby.

UVa Medical Center's forensic psychiatrist Eileen Ryan says unlike mothers who kill their school-age children, women that do so within twenty four hours of giving birth typically do not suffer from mental disorders.

"Younger women, poorly educated women, women who are basically fearful of the ramifications of having a child, they go through their pregnancy with a really amazing amount of denial, a really pathological amount of denial" said Ryan.

In addition to denial throughout the pregnancy, Dr. Ryan says during actual childbirth, these women will go through a dissociative experience.

"Women some times feel like they're watching themselves give birth like they're in a movie and that its really not them and then after ward they dispose of the baby" said Ryan.

In addition to other alternatives, the commonwealth also has safe haven laws. This allows a parent the ability to drop off a newborn up to 14 days old at any hospital, fire station or EMS provider. At that point, social services takes over.

"They are involved in taking care of the child from that point on in terms of getting the appropriate foster care and setting things up for more permanent adoption" said Jeff Garrison, Charlottesville Fire Department.

However, this law does not provide immunity from further legal battles, only a defense.

"They can use that as a defense for charges that might come down the road for abuse or neglect but that does not eliminate them from prosecution" said Garrison.

At this point the woman is not in police custody but Rockingham County officials say the investigation into the baby's death is still on going.

At this point no charges have been filed and the forensic psychiatrist we spoke with earlier says without the baby's body to perform an autopsy, there is no way to determine if the baby was a still born and therefore can't determine if a murder was committed.

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