A Baby Dies After Being Found With His Homeless Mother in Portland

Tents gather snow during a winter storm on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. Of five occupants interviewed, none knew the location of warming shelters, and only one expressed interest in going. John Rosman/OPB
Tents gather snow during a winter storm on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. Of five occupants interviewed, none knew the location of warming shelters, and only one expressed interest in going. John Rosman/OPB
Tents gather snow during a winter storm on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. Of five occupants interviewed, none knew the location of warming shelters, and only one expressed interest in going.
John Rosman/OPB

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

Kurios in Portland
  • PDXGRL73

    Can Kate Brown Justify this to the Oregon people?
    This poor woman, obviously either in shock or completely mentally ill did this alone, in the cold, while K.Brown sat in a warm house.
    Where are the social Justice warriors now? Why aren’t we protesting the horrific NON treatment of the mentally ill and the homeless?
    We sit in our homes arguing politics, throwing Memes at each other, we complain about the weather, the roads, and how cold it is, yet, this happens and the News doesn’t bat an eye.
    No one could ever justify such a sick misjustice as to let a barefoot, homeless, mentally ill pregnant woman live on the streets. Did she walk past anyone in those 8 1/2 months? Are we that blind as a society, to buried in our cell phones and computers, that we choose not to see such a disgraceful thing go on?
    Wake up. Look around you, help people. It is simple, ask if the person is ok, if you can help them. This is really happening folks, in our own state.

    • DawnBirdsong

      Why is this Governor Brown’s fault? As we read in the story, there are warming centers for homeless residents of the city, but many decline to visit them.
      Civil rights do not allow citizens to be locked up and treated for being homeless, nor for being pregnant.
      Suggest you dedicate 4 hours per month volunteering at a homeless shelter the warming center or a mental hospital. That will help.

      • maam2u

        that was a really unenlightened response. yes more actions and provisions need to happen. YOU try sleeping in a warming center when you can’t trust other adults and for good reason.
        But some are beyond rationality and NEED someone to rescue them from the streets, YES even if it’s against their will, when endangered. There is such a thing as being declared mentally incompetent and having a guardian to help, and make decisions for your benefit. But there is NO reason to put them into a bad place, we are fully capable of building decent homelike places to take care of those who need it. Yep, some with locked doors but monitored by caring relatives, advocates and friends, til their condition improves. Which it will do 9/10ths of the time IF they are given a decent warm comfy home, and treated like a human, for a good long time.

  • Tiffany Jump-Killion

    Are you fricking kidding me? Were they really investigating a mentally ill homeless lady who just went through child birth for murder? What the hell was she supposed to do? She was homeless, and likely had no way to go to a hospital when she went into labor. She carried the baby in her jacket most likely in an attempt to keep the baby warm but lets try to toss her in prison for murder? This system needs FIXED!

    • DawnBirdsong

      Nobody is investigation the mother for murder. That is not mentioned anywhere in the story.

      • Tiffany Jump-Killion

        here are some snippets from the article that make your claim false…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. AND

        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.’”

        They kept this case OPEN until the medical examiner said stillborn or homicide. HOMICIDE was the detectives word. Not mine. They would have put this lady away for homicide instead of getting this poor woman the mental health care she needs! Now they will probably just let her out of the hospital and back on the streets of Portland!

        • DawnBirdsong

          as you say, the case was left open pending the MEs determination of the cause of death.
          “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.”
          Sad story. We hope the woman will receive the help she needs.,

    • Steph

      Just because one is homeless does not mean she could not have gone to the hospital. The ER cannot turn anyone away even for inability to pay. And yes anytime ANYONE is found with a infant that is unresponsive needs to be investigated homeless or not. A infant was found dead, end of story. They were doing there job to investigate, and it should be done on anyone found with a dead infant. Yes if the baby was born alive, and starved or murdered, insane or not people need to take the consequences for actions otherwise anyone can walk around killing people and say “well I’m homeless and mental so I’m not held responsible.”

  • DawnBirdsong

    Shame on you, Tyler James, for reporting that a baby stillborn at 32 weeks gestation “died After being found with his homeless mother on the streets”.
    The baby died before birth. Died well before being found with its mother.
    Passerby reported the mother with the stillborn body, police responded with lights and sirens and medical personnel attempted to revive the dead infant. Medical examiners office determined the baby had died before birth.
    How dare That Oregon Life allow this kind of misleading reporting.
    It is clear from the other reactions posted here that some people reading the story are not aware that the baby died before birth. And that the lifeless body was expelled 2 months before mature enough to be born.

    • Steph

      There is no way to tell if the infant died of being a stillborn or any other reason without looking into it. They have an obligation when an infant is found unresponsive. And just because the baby is born at 32 weeks does not guarantee stillborn, many babies are born at 32 weeks and live so yes finding any infant dead needs to be investigated homeless or not. The chances of this infant going hungry and starving is much greater if someone is homeless and having a hard time feeding themselves. You need to calm out and just let people do their jobs.