|Loudoun County Sheriff’s deputies walk the paths in Sterling as they investigate the death of a newborn in a residential pond. —Times-Mirror Staff Photo/John Geddie|
As most Sterling residents were enjoying the first signs of spring on April 7, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office began its investigation to try to discover how a newborn infant found its way into a local pond.
At 11:42 a.m., a pedestrian strolling the paved trails that surround a man-made pond in the CountrySide development of Sterling spotted the body of an unclothed baby floating in the water. Several houses back into the pond, located near Awsley Court, less than a mile from Algonkian Elementary.
The infant girl was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency personnel.
Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman said April 8 in a press conference that preliminary autopsy reports indicate the baby was full-term, weighing approximately 7 pounds and measuring around 21 inches. She was white or Hispanic. The infant had not eaten and had been in the water “no more than a couple of days,” according to Chapman.
It appeared the baby didn't suffer any trauma, Chapman said.
Because the baby hadn't eaten, officials believe she died at or near her time of birth.
The medical examiner confirmed earlier police reports that the baby was born out of a hospital setting.
Thus far, the medical examiner has yet to determine whether the baby was a stillborn or live birth, or even whether there was water present in her lungs.
Both Chapman and Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman used the April 8 press conference as an opportunity to remind people of the “safe haven” laws available in Virginia.
Under the law, one may leave a baby under 14 days old at a hospital, emergency room or with an EMS provider without being prosecuted.
“It provides an out for someone in a predicament that wants to hand a child off safely,” Plowman said.
Chapman indicated he plans on discussing this with School Resource Officers to make sure teenagers are aware of the option.
“It does not have to happen like this,” Chapman said.
The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office has expressed concern for the medical well-being of the mother, given that the birth was outside a hospital setting, and are encouraging her to visit a hospital or call the Sheriff's Office.
The Sheriff's Office is working with Child Protective Services, School Resource Officers and the community in hopes of identifying the mother. Chapman would not hypothesize on possible charges the mother would face.
As deputies comb the neighborhood, knocking on doors in hopes of finding a lead in the investigation, pedestrians have dropped off bouquets near the edge of the pond, commemorating a life that could have been.
Members of the community who have information regarding the identity of the mother or who saw anything in the Awsley Court area are asked to contact Det. S. Petrakos at 703-777-0475.
This is an ongoing story. More information will be released as it becomes available.