Just on the heels of the story of a woman who froze to death on the streets recently, another tragic story in Portland has surfaced involving a newborn baby. The details of the infant’s death are found in a Portland police report, which was recently obtained by Willamette Week.
It’s no secret mental illness alongside a growing homeless problem in Oregon has been a contributing factor in recent deaths. The infant was found Jan 9, and marks the fifth death on Portland’s streets during the freezing temperatures this year.
Now a week later, no details have yet come out as exactly how the baby has died — whether the newborn passed due to exposure hours after being born outdoors, or possibly a stillborn.
The Portland Police Bureau had responded to a frightening scene at a TriMet bus stop on Southeast 91st Street and Powell Boulevard, sometime shortly before 6am on January 9th.
A homeless woman, who was barefoot, was seen pushing a shopping cart and opened her coat to show a man on his way to work she held a newborn baby. The man asked her to cover up, and proceeded to call 911.
When authorities had arrived on the scene, close to a Chuck E. Cheese, they texted details to colleagues who were headed their way to help.
“Baby was born in a transient camp near Chuck E. Cheese,” the text message said.
“Baby is conscious and breathing okay, but has been outside this entire time,” read a second text. “Baby is ice cold.”
The baby was rushed by ambulance to Oregon Health & Sciences University hospital, escorted by a squad car with its siren blaring.
The child’s 34-year-old mother was interviewed shortly after, while emergency room doctors worked to resuscitate the baby. According to the report, the woman’s story wasn’t adding up.
The woman said she’d gotten pregnant “by the miracle of immaculate conception” and was unable to answer the simplest of questions, such as her address, ethnicity or where her baby was born.
“It was very clear to me she was very mentally ill,” Officer Justin Raphael wrote in his police report.
With police speaking to the mother, hospital staff did their best while continuing to perform CPR, in a 25-minute efford to save the child.
“Around this time, OHSU personnel notified me that they were going to cease life-saving efforts on the newborn,” Raphael wrote. “The newborn was pronounced dead at 0641 hours.”
The child had lived less than 24 hours, and sadly never had a name. According to reports, a child abuse detective by the name of Robert Harley said in his report the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s office said the baby was stillborn at the hospital.
Two pediatric emergency room physicians who had assisted in trying to save the child, Dr. Sarah Blackmon and Dr. David Sheridan, disputed that conclusion.
“Dr. Sheridan told me it appeared to him the child was born at about 32 weeks,” Harley wrote in his report. “Dr. Sheridan told me the child appeared to ‘be viable.'”
Police would investigate if the baby had died of exposure to cold or other causes, but in the case the child was stillborn, they would not.
The state medical examiner, Dr. Karin Gunson, later disagreed with the OHSU doctors’ assessment of the baby’s condition.
“After an autopsy, we determined that the baby was stillborn,” Tom Chappelle, an investigator for the medical examiner’s office told Willamette Week Monday afternoon. “Dr. Gunson did the autopsy herself.”
As authorities were still unsure as to the cause of the baby’s death, Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson did not report the death to the public.
After Willamette Week had contacted Simpson, he checked with child-abuse detectives, who are unaware the autopsy was complete. He says with Gunson’s decision, the case is closed.
“The medical examiner ultimately is the one who tells us,” he says, “whether the determination was ‘stillborn’ or ‘homicide.’”
Source: Willamette Week