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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Baby's mother facing charges - Local News - thecalifornian.com

Baby's mother facing charges - Local News - thecalifornian.com

Monterey County Sheriff's detectives on Monday filed a criminal complaint against a 17-year-old mother who deputies say abandoned her baby in a portable toilet Thursday outside of Soledad.

The Monterey County Probation Department will review the complaint to decide whether to refer it to the district attorney's office.

The newborn, known as Baby Girl Doe, remained in serious condition Monday at Stanford's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, a spokesman said. Her mother remained in stable condition at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas.

The physical status of both mother and daughter is being monitored and re-evaluated daily by medical staff, said sheriff's Sgt. Doug Dahmen.

The teenage mother will be booked into juvenile hall after she is medically cleared for transfer, Dahmen said.

In the criminal complaint, sheriff's detectives request that the teenager be charged with attempted murder, child abandonment and child endangerment, Dahmen said.

The baby, who was found in the waste container of the portable toilet, was born seven weeks premature and weighed 3.5 pounds.

When the infant leaves the hospital, Monterey County Child Protective Services will take custody of the girl and likely place her with a foster family until she's adopted, said Maria Giuriato, who works for the county's Department of Social Services, which oversees child protective services.

The young mother, who police said gave birth next to a field where she'd been picking lettuce that morning, lives with her 20-year-old sister, Sara Dolores Cruz, in Greenfield, her only relative in the area.

If Cruz wanted to adopt her niece, she would have to go through a background check and fulfill all adoption requirements, Giuriato said.

If she is an undocumented immigrant, her chances of adopting the girl are very slim, Giuriato said, even though she is next of kin and therefore first in line for adoption.

The baby and mother's fate will be determined on separate legal tracks.

If the district attorney's office gets the case from the Probation Department, the district attorney then would have the choice of directly filing the sheriff's charges in Superior Court allowing juvenile court to decide whether to charge the 17-year-old mother as a juvenile or adult.

But Deputy District Attorney Terry Spitz said charging the teen with attempted murder, as the Sheriff's Office suggests, is a tricky matter.

"Literally, I would have to prove what was on the person's mind, what this particular subject wanted to do," Spitz said.

Attempted murder, he explained, requires intent to kill and must be established in court by statements and the circumstance.

Contact Claudia S. Meléndez at cmelendez@salinas.gannett.com and George B. Sanchez at gsanchez@salinas.gannett.com.

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