A newborn boy found dead in a portable toilet on a berry farm was alive at birth, the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s office said Saturday.
An autopsy performed on the child said the boy was a near-term baby “who was alive during the birth process,” but that further studies need to be completed before determining the exact cause of death.
The baby’s mother, a 21-year-old migrant worker, was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup just minutes before a maintenance worker discovered the body about 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Pierce County sheriff’s detectives were investigating whether a crime was committed.
“The medical examiner and the doctors are going to have to help us make a determination of what occurred,” sheriff’s spokesman Curt Benson said.
The mother became ill while picking berries at the George Richter Farms near Puyallup, said Roberta Riggan, head crew boss. She said she needed to vomit and went to the portable toilet, Riggan said.
Another worker summoned Riggan when the woman said she could not stand up to leave the toilet. Riggan said she called 911 and told the woman not to move.
Tacoma Fire Department aid crews arrived and began to treat the woman. Firefighter Dave Tuttle said communication was difficult because the woman does not speak English, but aid crews believed she might have been having a miscarriage.
Riggan said the woman told the aid crews she had “lost the baby,” and indicated to another worker that she was only four months pregnant.
Tuttle said he looked into the portable toilet twice and did not see the infant.
“All we saw was a little spot of blood,” he said.
A few minutes after the woman was taken to the hospital, a worker for Northwest Cascade Inc. came to perform routine maintenance and empty the toilet.
“It was kind of a shock,” Patrick Donohoe said of finding the body. “I knew what it was. There was no mistaking it.”
Donohoe notified his supervisors, who called police.
Riggan said the woman had been working at the farm since late June and did not appear pregnant. She could provide no background information concerning woman beyond the fact that this was the first year she had worked at the farm.
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