January 6, 2009 in City

Teen arrested in newborn’s death

Boy’s body found after search of trash
By TIM KLASS Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Investigators from the Port Angeles police, Pierce County Sheriff’s Dept., Tacoma police and the Washington State Patrol crime lab search through garbage Monday at LRI landfill in Graham, Wash.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE – The body of a baby boy believed drowned in a toilet was found Monday by authorities combing through 60 tons of trash at a dump site near Tacoma, and a teenager believed to be the mother was held on $500,000 bail.

Investigators from the Port Angeles police, Pierce County sheriff’s office, Tacoma police and a State Patrol crime laboratory spotted the tiny body about 2:10 p.m. as heavy equipment was used to comb through the partially compacted garbage.

The 16-year-old girl “put her baby face down into a toilet and allowed it to drown for several minutes until it died. Then she threw her son into the trash can outside in a plastic garbage bag,” Port Angeles police Detective Jesse Winfield wrote in an affidavit filed Monday in Clallam County Superior Court.

The affidavit did not elaborate and Winfield was out of his office late Monday.

An autopsy was pending, and DNA testing to confirm the infant’s parentage might not be available for a month or more, Port Angeles Police Chief Terry Gallagher told the Associated Press.

In a brief Superior Court hearing Monday in Port Angeles, bail was set at $500,000 for the teen, who remained in juvenile detention for investigation of first- or second-degree murder. Prosecutor Deborah S. Kelly said another hearing was scheduled Wednesday.

The girl will be charged as an adult, Kelly said.

Bail was set at $10,000 for her father, Ronald Last Jr., 41, who was charged Monday with being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of methamphetamine, both felonies, and with concealing a birth, a gross misdemeanor, the prosecutor added. He remained in the Clallam County jail.

Last has an extensive court record with civil and criminal cases dating from 1985 in King, Snohomish, Kitsap and Clallam counties, Gallagher said.

Police in Port Angeles believe the boy died shortly after the girl gave birth last Tuesday and was put in trash that was picked up the next day. Garbage from Wednesday was initially taken to a transfer station in Tacoma, about 80 miles southeast of Port Angeles, for shipment to Oregon, Waste Collections Inc. officials said.

The containers were rerouted to a site in Graham, about eight miles southeast of Tacoma, to provide more room to conduct the search.

Gallagher told the Peninsula Daily News in Port Angeles that a woman came to the police station Friday and said she had seen a baby in a trash can in an alley behind the girl’s house, but the can was empty when officers arrived.

“This is a very sad case,” Gallagher told the newspaper. “I think it is particularly tragic that this girl had so little support that she wasn’t able to recognize any other option than what happened.”

He said investigators believe the girl delivered the baby at the home about 3 a.m. last Tuesday. She was provided with medical care before she was incarcerated.

“I don’t believe that she had any medical care before we took her into custody,” Gallagher said.

During a search of the home, police found a gun and what first appeared to be a pipe bomb but turned out to be a device that can be attached to the bottom of a car for transporting illegal drugs, “a fairly common method,” he said.

Four other men and several other juveniles also lived at the house, he added.

The 16-year-old moved from Pueblo, Colo., where her mother lives, to her father’s home in Port Angeles in October.

Law enforcement in Pueblo has been contacted, and investigators have determined that the father of the baby “is an adult, not a minor,” Gallagher said.

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