PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia teenager has been charged with murder after allegedly leaving her newborn baby for dead in the trash on New Year’s Eve.
According to reports, a friend of Jani Morris, 15, told her mother what had occurred, and the woman hurried to locate the child. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that neighbor Diane Byrd saw the woman frantically calling out for help as she searched through garbage bags on the street.
She hurried over when the woman screamed after she located the child, who had been wrapped in shopping bags and then placed in a garbage bag.
“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” Byrd exclaimed.
Others came out into the street to see what was happening.
“She was screaming,” Byrd recalled. “And then she put the baby in the back seat of her car.”
After attempts to call police were unsuccessful, the woman took off in her car to find the closest police station. She found officers just three blocks away.
The baby was transported to Temple University Hospital, but was pronounced dead.
“If she didn’t want the baby, she could’ve put it up for adoption. There’s other things that she can do,” neighbor Gina Finiello told CBS Philadelphia.
“It’s hurtful, that’s what it is. Very hurtful,” neighbor Dawn Jackson told WPVI-TV. “Maybe she was scared and didn’t know what to do.”
Pennsylvania has a safe haven law in place that allows mothers to surrender their newborn babies—up to 28 days old—at a hospital or police station without prosecution.
“If you are not able to care for your baby, all you have to do is bring your newborn … to any Pennsylvania hospital or to a police officer at a police station and drop it off. That’s all. As long as the baby is unharmed and not a victim of any crime, you will not be in any trouble,” the site PA Families outlines.
“No one will ask you any questions, no one will judge you and no one will say a word about your baby. In fact, you don’t even have to give your name or address. You can provide medical information for the baby. But you don’t have to answer any questions.”
25 children have been surrendered via Pennsylvania’s safe haven law—The Newborn Protection Act—since it was enacted in 2003.
Because Morris instead discarded of the baby in the trash, she is now being charged as an adult with murder and endangering the welfare of a child.
As previously reported, a woman in Kentucky was likewise charged with murder last month after her baby was found in a garbage bag, and in August, a South Carolina woman was arrested after she placed her newborn child in a trash bag and left him or her on the floorboard of her car to die.
A Texas woman was also arrested that same month after she gave birth at her place of employment and then put her newborn son in a trash bag and walked him out to the dumpster. The baby survived as her co-worker called 911 to report the incident to emergency personnel.
All the states where the women were prosecuted have safe haven laws.