Did a woman break the law by giving a newborn babies to strangers in a Walmart parking lot, even if the couple then safely delivered the infant to a nearby fire station? Or did the pair actually know the woman in question -- and if so, were their actions legal? These are among the questions with which the Lakewood Police Department is grappling at this writing. But a resolution may be coming soon.
LPD spokesman Steve Davis gives us background on the incident, which began to unfold at about 8:10 a.m. yesterday morning.
"A couple came to West Metro station 1 at 14th and Lamar," Davis says. "They handed over a newborn baby -- and it was very newly born. I'm told the baby was no more than two or three hours old and was still covered in amniotic fluid. And the umbilical cord was still attached."
The pair made it clear the child wasn't theirs. Instead, Davis continues, "they said they'd been at Walmart" -- the store at West Colfax and Wadsworth -- "and a very young female had come up to them in the parking lot, handed them the baby and left."
They subsequently split as well, leaving authorities with a strange dilemma.
"Many people are familiar with our Safe Haven law," Davis notes. "It gives parents the ability to drop a child off at either a firehouse or a hospital if that child is less than 72 hours old and is in good health. The parents can remains anonymous, and if everything else is fine, they won't be charged or arrested or prosecuted for any crimes. No questions asked."
Because the statute pertains to parents, though, the assertion that the young woman had given the child to people she didn't know created what Davis calls "a little wrinkle. If a young female did hand off a newly born child to total strangers, none of that falls under the provisions of the Safe Havens law. A parent giving away a child to total strangers would be a crime."
Davis's attempt to explain this potential conflict to TV outlets led to some negative feedback, he admits: "We had a lot of calls and people on Twitter who were confused and angry that we were trying to dig into this. They assumed the Safe Haven law gave anyone the right to drop a child off at a firehouse. So I've had to spend a long time trying to explain that the only reason we were looking into this a little further was the first version of the story."
Things may be resolved soon. Last night, Davis reveals, investigators told him they may have identified the young mother -- and they think it's possible that the two people who dropped off the baby were actually relatives, not strangers. This scenario may not precisely fit the provisions of the Safe Haven law, either, but it's a lot closer, "and we're very much in agreement with letting the Safe Haven law take its course and do what it's designed to do," he says, adding that he expects to be able to provide an update within the next day or so.
Even more important: Although the baby was taken to a nearby hospital as a precautionary measure, she checked out well and is doing just fine. According to Davis, "it appears she was very well taken care of during her first few hours of life."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Here's a 7News report about the case.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.