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Detective Still Seeking Leads To Baby Girl

By SUZETTE STALKER
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader

Authorities still have no clues to the identity of the person who abandoned a baby girl last week outside St. Paul's Episcopal Church on East Broad Street. The child, meanwhile, remains in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Overlook Hospital in Summit, pending a court hearing at which time she is expected to be made a ward of the state.

The healthy white infant, who has strawberry blonde hair, was found tucked in a cardboard beer box near the side entrance to the church about 6:30 a.m. on May 5 by a caretaker making his early morning rounds. At the time she was found, she was determined to be about 10 days old. The caretaker, Stuart Leonard, who nicknamed her "St. Pauli Girl," alerted police and the Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad, which transported the baby to Overlook.

The baby was found wearing a white infant gown with pink and blue animal prints on it, and socks. In the box with her were a blanket, a royal blue terry cloth towel and a pacifier. Authorities believe the child may have been born outside of a hospital to a very young mother, and that the infant was left outside the church a short time before she was discovered.

Detective Sergeant James Schneider of the Westfield Police Department, who is overseeing the investigation in cooperation with detectives from the Union County Prosecutor's Office, said authorities had set up roadblocks in the vicinity of East Broad Street and Euclid Avenue in order to question motorists and pedestrians who regularly travel that route about whether they may have noticed anything unusual near the church the morning the infant was found.

Investigators have also distributed flyers with the infant's picture and information about her to nine area hospitals, including St. Barnabas in Livingston and JFK Medical Center in Edison, as well as area high schools and churches, but so far have not gained any leads. "We have no trail at all," reported Sergeant Schneider, who said authorities have also publicized their search through local media sources from Bergen County to south Jersey.

Stephen Auger, Public Relations Manager at Overlook Hospital, told The Westfield Leader on Tuesday that the baby "is in good condition," adding that she is only being kept in the Intensive Care unit "as a precaution."

He said that the hospital has received hundreds of calls from people interested in adopting the infant, which have been referred to the state's Division of Youth and Family Services. The infant is expected to be placed in a pre-adoptive home after being discharged from the hospital, where she will stay until all efforts to locate family members have been exhausted, according to Sergeant Schneider.

Mr. Auger reported that since the baby's arrival at Overlook "there has been a tremendous outpouring of support from the community," through donations of clothes, toys and baby formula. '"It's really a wonderful thing the way people have rallied around this child," remarked the hospital spokesman. "It is something that will have a lasting effect."

Anyone with any information about the baby or who may have seen any unusual activity in the vicinity of St. Paul's Church on May 5 is asked to call Sergeant Schneider at 789-4000 or Investigator Edward Koenig at 965-3881.

Newborn Girl Found In Cardboard Box Outside of St. Paul’s Church in Westfield

By SUZETTE STALKER

Authorities are searching for information concerning a newborn girl who was found in a cardboard beer box early Monday near the side entrance to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on East Broad Street in Westfield, directly across from Westfield police headquarters. The baby, described as healthy, was discovered by a caretaker at the church at about 6:30 a.m.

"She’s a beautiful, beautiful girl with pretty eyes and strawberry blonde hair," Detective Sergeant James Schneider of the Westfield Police Department said of the white infant, who weighed five pounds, 12 ounces and measured 20 inches in length, according to police. Medical professionals believe that the baby is about two weeks old and may have been born several weeks premature.

Sergeant Schneider, who has been assigned to oversee the investigation in conjunction with detectives from the Child Abuse Unit of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, added that "we have been told that this young child could be from a very young mother who was trying to hide her pregnancy." He also said the child had an umbilical cord scab which indicated that she may have been born outside of a hospital.

Caretaker Stuart Leonard, who nicknamed the infant "St. Pauli Girl" because she was found in a beer box outside the church, said he had just opened the church entrance when he discovered the baby. He explained that the church is open at that hour for people who want to worship before going to work, and that the side entrance also is used by students arriving for St. Paul’s Day School later in the morning.

He said he initially thought that the box was something left over from a concert held at the church on Sunday night, which he said drew a large crowd. When he went over to investigate, he said he noticed one of the baby’s hands was waving. "It was really kind of touching," remarked the caretaker, who has a 7-year-old daughter of his own, Chelsea.

Mr. Leonard, who said he "did a double take" upon discovering the baby, added that he did not notice anyone in the vicinity where the infant was dropped off. He said that after making sure the box was sturdy, he picked it up and brought it inside, then notified authorities. The Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad transported the baby to Overlook Hospital in Summit, where she was examined by medical experts and was "resting comfortably in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit," authorities said.

The baby was dressed in a white infant gown with pink and blue jungle animals printed on it, and socks. A blanket, along with a pacifier and a royal blue terry cloth towel, was found in the box along with her. The blanket, made by Fruit of the Loom, was described by authorities as white with caricatures of babies and bearing the words "Kiss, Cuddle and Hug" underneath, along with small light blue peace sign insignias.

Although the temperature had dropped into the 40s overnight, Sergeant Schneider said that the baby had only lost one degree of body temperature, leading to speculation that she had been left a short time before she was found. Authorities planned to canvass the area earlier this week for any possible witnesses in the case.

Westfield Deputy Police Chief John P. Wheatley remarked that police officers who have served on the force for more than 30 years could not recall another incident of a baby having been abandoned in Westfield. He said that anyone with information about the baby or who noticed anything suspicious around the church grounds Monday morning is asked to call Sergeant Schneider at 789-4000 or Investigator Edward Koenig at 965-3881.

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10/25/97.

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