Authorities say it’s still unclear whether charges will be filed against a teen who discarded her newborn in the trash earlier this year.
Wichita Police Lt. Randy Reynolds said the case remains under investigation, more than four months after the infant girl’s body was found by officers Jan. 16 in a dumpster at Eastgate Shopping Center, 8125 E. Kellogg.
Whether the full-term, 6-pound, 10-ounce girl was born alive and what caused her death could not be determined by the coroner, according to an autopsy report filed late last month in Sedgwick County District Court. The examination “revealed no evidence of trauma or natural disease” and no conclusive sign the infant had drawn a breath.
The teen told authorities the infant was stillborn, police said in January.
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Reynolds said the agency is awaiting analysis of “additional pieces of information” before presenting the case to District Attorney Marc Bennett’s office. He would not discuss what the information was but said the agency hoped to turn the facts of the case over to prosecutors, who will decide whether to file charges, sometime during the next few weeks. Authorities continue to investigate the case as a “suspicious death,” he said.
Speaking broadly of death investigations, Reynolds said a coroner’s report is “just a piece of the pie” used to present a case to the district attorney’s office for review and possible charging — “but it’s not the end all.”
“We have cases that are undetermined in the cause (of death) and we develop additional information” and file charges later, he said.
Police in January discovered the baby’s body after her mother, a 17-year-old, was taken to Wesley Medical Center with severe hemorrhaging. After being questioned by hospital staff, the teen revealed she had given birth six days earlier at her south Wichita home and placed the baby in a trash bag. The bag was then thrown in the mall dumpster by a family member who didn’t know of its contents, police have said.
A plastic bag holding a placenta accompanied the infant’s body to the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center, where autopsies are performed, according to the coroner’s report. A light blue, twin-sized blanket spotted with small yellow stains on one side arrived later, tucked in a brown paper bag.
Police have said they think the teen’s parents were unaware of the pregnancy. Police also think her boyfriend, then 18, is the infant’s father.
The teen is not being named by The Eagle because charges have not been filed.
Local criminal defense lawyer Dan Monnat said while it’s possible charges could be filed against the teen mother or others, “any would suffer from the autopsy’s failure to determine whether the infant was born alive.”
“When you have an autopsy report that comes back that fails to attribute the death to criminal means, it’s kind of hard to charge anyone with any kind of homicide crime,” said Monnat, who practices throughout the Midwest.
“The death of a baby or child is always a shocking a tragic event and it’s natural to want to point fingers and assign blame. But babies and children are fragile and might just as easily be the victims of freak accidents as intentional wrongdoing.”