After giving birth early Tuesday, a 16-year-old mother wrapped her newborn son in a towel and brought him to an alley behind her home.
She placed him on a trash container, then returned to her apartment to clean up the blood, Cook County prosecutors said Friday.
The newborn was brought to a Logan Square fire station by his grandmother later that afternoon, his umbilical cord still attached; he was minutes from death, officials said.
In separate courtrooms Friday, prosecutors laid out the first, harrowing hours of the baby’s life as they brought charges of attempted murder against the boy’s mother and her boyfriend.
The mother’s defense attorney says she was in shock.
The boy’s grandmother, Karla Antimo, 37, accused of lying to police about how she came to bring the baby to a Northwest Side fire station, is charged with filing a false police report.
Baby left in trash container was “minutes” from death
Prosecutors said the couple had kept the pregnancy secret from both their families.
About 6 a.m. Tuesday, the girl went to the bathroom at her South Old Irving Park home and gave birth, prosecutors said. She wrapped the boy in a towel before taking the child outside and leaving it on the top of a trash container in the alley.
As the couple tried to clean up blood in the building’s hallway, the girl’s mother heard a commotion on the stairs and came to see what happened, prosecutors said.
A neighbor found all three cleaning up the hallway, and the girl said she’d had a miscarriage, prosecutors said. Her mother asked the neighbor to call an ambulance for the girl, who was still bleeding.
In the afternoon, the boyfriend returned to the alley and placed the boy in a bag and put the bag inside the trash container, prosecutors said. Shortly after, he called his mother, Antimo, telling her about the birth and that the baby had died.
When Antimo arrived, she also believed the child was dead, prosecutors said. But after taking her son and the bag into her car, she heard a noise and realized he was still alive.
After dropping off her son at home, she drove to the fire station at 1745 N. Pulaski Rd.; there, she said she’d found the baby while putting her car away in an alley about a block away on Keystone Avenue, authorities said.
“This poor kid was minutes away from having no chance at all,” Chicago Fire Department Field Chief Patrick Fitzmaurice said Thursday. “The baby was cold as concrete.”
The newborn had been without care for more than 10 hours, authorities said.
Paramedics rushed the boy to Norwegian American Hospital, where doctors resuscitated him; he later was transferred to Lurie Children’s Hospital.
He is expected to stay in the hospital’s intensive care unit for at least two more weeks, prosecutors said.
Detectives went to the area where Antimo told them she had discovered the baby, but found no evidence to support her story, prosecutors said.
On Wednesday, Antimo called police and admitted she had lied, prosecutors said.
Teens, grandmother released after court
Both teens appeared for hearings Friday morning before Judge Stuart F. Lubin at the Cook County Juvenile Center. They were released to their parents’ custody. The Chicago Sun-Times is not identifying the teens because they are charged as juveniles.
Following the girl’s hearing, her attorney, Rajeev Bajaj, said she was as a straight-A student who plays soccer and takes accelerated classes at her high school.
“She’s never been arrested before. This is the first time she’s ever been even in court,” Bajaj said.
Bajaj described her actions after the birth as a young girl dealing with a traumatic experience.
“Being in court, being accused of [the attempted murder of] your child, that’s something that probably sticks with you for the rest of your life,” Bajaj said.
“When she was arrested and charged, she was in a state of shock. I think when the facts come out, and you hear both sides of the story, I think it is gonna be showing us a very harsh charge in regard to this particular girl.”
Prosecutors argued for a restraining order to prevent the father from contacting the baby’s mother; Lubin denied the request.
Antimo was released on her own recognizance after a bail hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.
Antimo has lived in Illinois 18 years, her court-appointed assistant public defender said. She has never been arrested before and was working at a candy manufacturer in the city.
One of her two children has significant medical needs; her attorney asked Judge Susana Ortiz to consider that child’s medical needs when setting bail.
Ortiz said she found the underlying case disturbing, but noted Antimo had cooperated with authorities and was not charged with a violent offense. Her next court date is May 16.
Members of Antimo’s family at the hearing said they had learned many details of case only when prosecutors read them in court. They declined to comment further.
Illinois a ‘Safe Haven’ state
In Illinois, parents have up to 30 days to hand over their infant at a “Safe Haven” location if they can’t care for their child — or choose not to.
No questions are asked; anyone dropping off a child is not asked for their name, according to Dawn Geras, founder of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, a nonprofit that helped write the state’s Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act
Since the law was passed in 2001, 131 babies in the state have been turned in at Safe Haven locations, Geras said. Last year, not a single baby is known to have been abandoned in the state.
“This is the first one of the year and I hope the last — ever,” Geras said.
Safe Haven locations in the state include hospitals and emergency care facilities, as well as police and fire stations with staff on duty.
The whole process can be completed anonymously, as long as the child was not abused and was left with staff at a Safe Haven. However, if there is evidence the child was abused, the act does not protect the parents.
“That is the promise: They can remain anonymous and no one will know,” Geras said. “They can rest assured that they’ve made a loving and responsible decision.”
When a newborn is left at a Safe Haven location, the child is brought to the nearest hospital, where the baby will receive a physical examination and necessary medical care. The child will eventually be released to an adoption agency.
Parents often scared
“I tend to think [the parents] felt like they didn’t have any other option,” Geras said of parents who abandon their newborns. “But they’re scared, maybe they’re afraid to tell their parents.
“It’s not my position to judge. I have no idea what she was going through,” Geras added. “Don’t feel alone. There are people who care about you and your baby who can help.”
Parents have up to 60 days after giving the infant up at a Safe Haven location to reclaim the infant, according to the foundation. Parents who want to reclaim their child are subject to counseling and an investigation by child protection officials if they want to reclaim custody.
The foundation, which can also help before the child is born by connecting pregnant women with counseling, supportive services and adoption options, can be reached 24/7 via their national hotline at 888-510-2229.
“There is help out there,” Geras said.