OCEAN SHORES — The newborn found abandoned Friday night in an Ocean Shores vacant lot died as a result of a homicide, the Grays Harbor County Coroner’s Office ruled Sunday.
An autopsy was conducted on the newborn girl Sunday morning, Deputy Coroner Lane Youmans said in a statement: “The Pathologist concluded that the baby died as a result of skull fractures and brain injuries due to blunt-force injury of the head. The manner of death is homicide.”
Charges are pending a law enforcement meeting about the case on Monday.
A 21-year-old Grays Harbor woman was identified Saturday afternoon as the mother of the newborn baby, whose body was found Friday night discarded in bushes on the wooded lot about a half mile south of the Ocean Shores Airport.
Police said tips received as a result of media reports about the baby’s discovery early Saturday led to information that identified the woman as a possible suspect.
“Because of media coverage, there were some people who were familiar with her and some of the comments she made, so that led investigators to her,” said Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers, acting as the public information officer at the scene.
After the woman and her boyfriend were contacted, authorities said they learned the couple had previously been staying at an Ocean Shores motel in the 600 block of Ocean Shores Boulevard. They were taken to the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Department in Montesano for interviews yesterday afternoon as a task force of officers continued to process evidence from the motel.
Ocean Shores Police, with Sgt. Dave McManus as the lead investigator, had been considering the death a homicide all along, and they processed the multiple scenes with assistance from Hoquiam police and the Sheriff’s Department.
It appeared that the child was not more than 24 hours old, Myers said.
Myers said a woman was walking in the 200 bock of Fisher Avenue NE in Ocean Shores about 6 p.m. Friday and noticed a rag hanging on a branch, which looked odd. She looked closer and discovered the child’s body.
“She saw the body curled up in a fetal position,” Myers said, adding there were signs of trauma to the body of the infant.
Ocean Shores paramedics responded, but the child was already deceased.
Myers said the child was Caucasian, but no other details about the child were released. The owner of the property on which the infant was found lives out of town and there are no homes on several of the lots nearby. Stormy conditions, with wind and rain, prevented investigators from processing the scene for evidence Friday night, but a full evidence team combed the area Saturday morning, finding some undisclosed new evidence.
Residents in the quiet neighborhood of mostly older property owners said they had not heard or seen anything suspicious recently and were astonished to see a homicide investigation under way.
“There are so many other options for her,” neighbor Karleen Day said, expressing concern for the mother. “She could have just left the baby on my doorstep.”
Acting on the tips from the public, Myers said investigators did speak to the woman and her boyfriend at their home.
“They do not live in Ocean Shores,” he said. “And after we talked to them, we brought them into Montesano for more formal interviews. At the same time, that information led investigators to the motel room where the birth actually occurred.”
The severity of any criminal charges will depend on the outcome of the autopsy, Myers said.
In Washington, either parent may legally surrender a newborn within the first 72 hours if they bring the child to an emergency room, a fire station or a federally designated rural health clinic during its operating hours while personnel are present, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
A parent who safely surrenders an infant will not be subject to criminal liability, and whoever takes the child will not require any identification. The person who takes the infant will try to protect the anonymity of the parent, provide an opportunity for the parent to anonymously give information about medical history, and give referral information for services including adoption, counseling, domestic violence and medical and emotional aftercare services.