State

Infant in trash 'freaked out' man

TURLOCK -- The weight of the bag seemed wrong.

When Jeff Merrow picked up the white Target bag full of clothes, it just seemed too heavy. And when he looked inside, he realized why: A newborn baby girl, her umbilical cord still attached, was nestled among the clothes. She was blue. And she didn't seem to be breathing.

"I freaked out. I panicked," Merrow said. "I started screaming for my wife, 'Call the police, call the police.' I told my wife, who was sitting inside our car, 'I found a baby. I found a little baby.' I was horrified."

Police, who confirmed that Merrow discovered the baby, would not release any further information about the investigation Sunday, but said they have not determined whether the baby was stillborn or died after her birth.

They still are looking for the baby's mother. They say they are concerned for her health and want to find out how the baby ended up inside the Save Mart trash bin at 1631 Lander Ave.

An autopsy is scheduled for today.

Merrow, 49, of Turlock, said it was "just a fluke" that he found the bag. He said he's "not a Dumpster person." But a friend looking in the trash bin for recyclables Saturday found what looked like surveillance video tapes, and told Merrow about them.

Merrow said he was interested in the tapes because he had filed a lawsuit against Save Mart over an alleged assault. Merrow's friend thought the tapes might be useful.

As Merrow pulled tapes from the Dumpster, he spotted the Target bag, he said. He saw clothing through the white plastic and decided to take a closer look.

"There was something wrong," he said. "It was too heavy. I tore the bag open. I saw a towel that had blood on it and I got a really bad feeling. When I moved the towel, I saw this little baby's face."

After asking his wife to call police, Merrow found a cardboard box and put the baby inside. Merrow asked police to give the girl his name if her parents don't come forward.

"I don't want that baby to be 'Jane Doe,' " he said, his voice shaking. "I'm going down tomorrow and try to get a headstone for that little baby."

Turlock police ask anyone with information about this incident to call Detective Sergio Perez at 668-5550, ext. 6744, or Crime Stoppers at 521-4636. Tipsters can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.

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