Police investigate death of newborn found behind Baltimore church

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore police are investigating as a suspicious death the case of a newborn who was found in a Charles Village trash bin after his mother went for treatment at Union Memorial Hospital on Saturday.

Police said the 22-year-old woman, who was involved in a training program with a Christian volunteer organization, went to the hospital for abdominal pains, and doctors discovered during an examination that she had recently had a baby.

The woman, whom police declined to identify, told doctors she had given birth to a stillborn boy, but she wouldn't disclose where they could find his body, according to police spokesman Troy Harris.

Hospital staff notified police about 9:30 p.m., and city officers went to where she had been living - St. John's United Methodist Church in the 2600 block of St. Paul St. - and began searching the church and its property. Officers found the dead, full-term newborn in a blue steel trash bin behind the church in an alley, police said.

The woman had been living in the basement of the church while undergoing training as part of a group of 20 volunteers with the Church of the Brethren, a Christian service organization based in New Windsor and Elgin, Ill., according to police and a spokeswoman for the group.

Detectives with the department's homicide unit are investigating the child's death, Harris said.

"It's a very tragic situation," said Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, a spokeswoman for the group. "At this point, we're just expressing our heartfelt concern, both for the individual involved and [her] family, and the church where it happened."

She said the group's leadership had not known that the young woman was pregnant. The group of volunteers were involved in a five-week training program and were spending four days in Baltimore as part of a segment in their training that exposed them to urban issues, she said.

"Since we're in the midst of a police investigation, there's not much we can say at this point," Brumbaugh-Cayford said.

The Rev. Drew Phoenix, the pastor at St. John's, said the woman was originally from Westminster and had been staying in the church's shelter with the rest of the group. He said it was the second year in a row St. John's had let the group use the church.

He said that, as far as he knew, people did not know that the woman was pregnant, but he was told that she gave birth at the church.

"She gave various reasons for why she had a large abdomen," Phoenix said.

"We're really sad," Phoenix said. "It's tragic. It's sad. We're concerned and praying for her well-being."

The woman has not been charged with any crime. Harris said the state medical examiner's office is conducting an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death of the boy.

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