No death cause found for Dumpster baby

TURLOCK -- The Stanislaus County coroner's office has not found a cause of death for the newborn girl found in a Dumpster in a south Turlock parking lot, an official said Monday.

The baby appeared dead when police arrived at the Save Mart parking lot in the 1600 block of Lander Avenue at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. She could not be revived at an area hospital, said Turlock police Sgt. Steve Wil- liams.

The infant's body was found in a white Target bag, with the umbilical cord still attached, according to the man who found her. Jeff Merrow, 49, of Turlock said the girl was blue and didn't seem to be breathing.

Williams said investigators recovered a pair of size large purple women's sweatpants, a light blue bath towel and a kitchen towel with a green print pattern along with the baby's body.

Police said the person responsible for dumping the child could be subject to "any number" of charges, depending on what the investigation reveals.

"It could be murder, it could be child neglect, it could be manslaughter," Wil- liams said.

But he stressed that police are not focusing on the criminal charges.

"We just want to find the mom and make sure she's all right," he said.

There's a legal way to surrender a baby. Called the Safely Surrendered Baby Law, it encourages parents or people with lawful custody to leave an infant at a "safe surrender site" within 72 hours of the child's birth.

The law provides a safe place for babies, protects parents from prosecution for child abandonment, does not require that names be given and allows the parents at least 14 days to reclaim the baby.

Since the law was enacted in 2001, six babies have been surrendered in Stanislaus County, according to the county Community Service Agency's Child and Family Services division.

A safe surrender site -- the fire station at 791 S. Walnut Road -- was just a mile and a half from where the Turlock baby was found, Williams said.

Other sites in Turlock include the fire stations at 540 E. Marshall St., 501 E. Monte Vista Ave., 2820 N. Walnut Road and Emanuel Medical Center at 825 Delbon Ave.

Williams said investigators have gotten many calls asking for ways to help with burial expenses for the baby.

HELP of Stanislaus County, a nonprofit agency composed of law enforcement personnel, has set up an account for community donations.

Donations can be made payable to HELP of Stanislaus County at P.O. Box 579595, Modesto 95357. Donations are also being accepted at Valley First Credit Union for the "Baby Jane Doe" fund. Donations can be made through PayPal at

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Turlock Police Detective Sergio Perez at 668-5550, ext. 6744. Callers can leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at 521-4636 and may be eligible for a cash reward.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at or 578-2337.