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> ALARM ! MCFD gets 1st baby drop off
post Nov 9 2017, 05:22 AM
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Infant found in Michigan City fire station's baby box

Amy Lavalley

The silent alarm on the Safe Haven Baby Box at the Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department in Michigan City has been tripped before, fire officials there said, mostly by people curious about the box on the east side of the building.

So when Chief Mick Pawlik's pager went off Tuesday night, he assumed it was another false alarm. He hoped it wasn't a baby, he said, because he was in his pajamas.

When he saw something in the box after getting the page at 10:24 p.m. and arriving at the station, he thought it was a dog or a raccoon. That's not what he found.

"I can see this sweatshirt. I can see this little baby arm," he said during a Wednesday news conference at the fire station.

Fire officials lauded the decision to put the baby girl, who they said was about one hour old, wrapped in a gray hoodie and with a few inches of her umbilical cord still attached, in the box, a move that likely saved the infant's life.

"I would really like to thank the mother who did this, for doing the right thing," said Assistant Chief Warren Smith, who lobbied the department for the box, which was installed April 28, 2016. "This just happens to be a story that turned out really well."

Fire officials said Tuesday night marked the first time an infant has been left in one of the boxes.

According to the Safe Haven Baby Boxes website, there are two such boxes in Indiana. The second box is at the fire department in Woodburn; no other locations are listed on the website. Under the state's Save Haven Law a person can anonymously give up an unwanted infant less than 30 days old at a police station, fire department or hospital without fear of arrest or prosecution.

Smith pressed for the box after several babies were found abandoned in LaPorte County over several years, though Pawlik said the department initially faced criticism for installing the box.

Having the box is an option, Pawlik said, adding law enforcement officials will never know the number of babies abandoned in the county.

"I can't express how happy I am for this call," he said, adding of the baby's mother, "it's the hardest decision she'll ever make and it was a wise one."

Mick Pawlik, chief of the Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department, center, talks about finding a baby in the station’s “Save Haven Baby Box” Tuesday night during a Wednesday news conference at the station. At left is firefighter Nick Fekete and to the right is Assistant Chief Warren Smith, who advocated for the station to get the box. (Amy Lavalley / Post-Tribune)
"This is the last resort, when the mother cannot make face-to-face contact," he said.

He credited the fire department and the township trustee's office with bringing the box to fruition.

"It makes me feel like it's part of something special and it is something special. We saved a life last night," he said.

Firefighter Nick Fekete, who also was at the station when the infant was found, said he had the utmost praise for the baby's mother.

"I don't know what she was going through. It was just a great decision," he said.

Officials said the baby was taken by ambulance to Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Michigan City. Pawlik rode in the ambulance with the infant.

"The infant is in good condition. There is no reason to believe there are any injuries to the infant at this time," said Capt. Mike Kellems, public information officer with the LaPorte County Sheriff's Department, adding the child is in the custody of the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Under Indiana's Safe Haven Law, a person can give up an unwanted infant anonymously without fear of prosecution, according to the DCS website.

As long as there are no signs of intentional abuse on the baby, no information is required of the person leaving the baby. Once the baby is examined and given medical treatment, if needed, DCS will take the baby into custody through Child Protective services, where it will be placed with a caregiver, according to the website.

The Safe Haven Baby Box is heated, Pawlik said, and once the door is opened, it locks when it shuts. An interior door to the box is located in his office inside the fire station.

Pawlik said he left the infant in the box until medics arrived so she would stay warm, though his instinct was to pick her up. The baby, he added, was calm, certainly calmer than he was.

"It's very rewarding," he said. "I don't look at it like we're heroes or nothing. We're serving the public here."


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post Nov 9 2017, 04:05 PM
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Chesterton police are investigating the apparent remains of human childbirth found in a portable toilet Wednesday, and said part of that investigation includes determining whether the discovery is related to a newborn girl left in a baby box at a fire station near Michigan City earlier this week.

"I cannot confirm whether it is or is not related, but it is being pursued as part of our investigation," said Chesterton Police Chief David Cincoski.

Police are treating the incident as an active case, he said, though it is not being investigated for criminal charges.

Cincoski said EMS personnel confirmed it was human.

Members of the Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department were called to the station around 10:24 p.m. Tuesday because someone left a newborn girl, an hour old, in the Safe Haven Baby Box. Officials said the baby girl, who was in good health and was transported to Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Michigan City, was turned over to the custody of the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Chesterton police responded to the area of the Prairie Duneland bicycle rail, specifically the parking lot off of Babcock Road adjacent to the Golfview subdivision.

At approximately 1 p.m., a passerby saw in the portable toilet at that location what appeared to be the remains of a newborn human birthing process, a release from the Chesterton police said. The apparent remains were removed and a thorough search of the remainder of the contents of the tank did not reveal any other human materials, the release said.

A search of the immediate area also was conducted, Cincoski said, but nothing was recovered.

For now, Cincoski said the department's intent is to determine the physical health and welfare of the parties involved.

Anybody with information is asked to call Sgt. Dan Rocha of the Duneland Investigations Division at 219-926-1136.

Assisting in the investigation were the Burns Harbor Fire Department; the Chesterton Fire Department; the Chesterton Street Department; and the Porter Police Department.

Amy Lavalley is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.
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