MULBERRY, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County detectives were back near the Regal Loop Mobile Home Park off Bailey Road for much of the day Monday to try to find out who left a newborn baby in the woods in the dark this weekend.
“What if we didn’t see it?” asked Magdalena Gregorio Ordones, who speaks Spanish.
She and her husband heard what they first assumed were cats just after midnight Saturday morning.
It was a cool night, in the 50’s.
After hearing the cries again, they went out to look and found something shocking.
“It was a baby. It was in diapers, a blanket, and towels underneath. We were standing there and we called the police and then the ambulance came to take the baby,” she said.
Ordones thanked God the baby is alive.
“It’s a gift from God, it’s a miracle,” she said.
Sheriff Grady Judd had another word for it.
“Those people are heroes. True heroes. That lady and her husband saved Angel Grace’s life,” he said.
Angel Grace is the name the sheriff is using for the 6.5 pound baby girl found in the woods.
Aside from some insect bites, the baby is perfectly healthy, according to the sheriff.
He said he believes the baby is Hispanic.
She was found with her umbilical cord and placenta still intact, according to Judd.
“There has to be accountability because had it not been for a great set of lungs on a healthy baby she would have been dead,” said Sheriff Judd.
Detectives are processing DNA samples taken from the baby and were back on scene, knocking on doors throughout the day.
The person who left the baby could face child endangerment charges.
“Certainly, we saved this person from a homicide charge,” said Sheriff Judd.
Neighbor Donna Vaughan said she was not aware of anybody who was pregnant in the neighborhood, but people come and go often.
Many of the residents, she said, are migrant farmworkers.
“What were the circumstances that [the baby’s mother] felt that she had no out, she had way other than to leave the baby?” she asked.
Florida’s Safe Haven Law allows for the anonymous surrender of a baby under a week old at a hospital or staffed fire/EMS station.
“We have Willow Oak, the firehouse right there,” Vaughan noted.
Vaughan expressed concern about how the baby will feel once it has grown up and finds out it was abandoned this way.
“I’m not defined by my beginnings. I’m defined by who I am today,” said Monica Kelsey, who knows from experience.
She said she was abandoned within hours of being born by her mother.
Kelsey is now the founder and CEO of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, which provides devices to safely leave newborn babies at safe haven locations without any face-to-face interactions.
There is only one such box in Florida, in Ocala.
Incidents like the one in Polk County, Kelsey said, show why awareness about Safe Haven laws are so important.
“It sounds to me like we have a very scared, young possibly, woman that didn’t know her options and unfortunately she’s probably gonna be prosecuted for child endangerment,” she said.