Web Posted: 09/24/2009 2:57 CDT
Father arrested after baby found dead
By Valentino Lucio, Eva Ruth Moravec
and Michelle Mondo - Express-News
The young father of a 7-week-old infant found dead outside a West Side fire station secluded himself in his home for hours until police officers swarmed it and arrested him Wednesday evening.
Before that, 18-year-old Ramiro De La Rosa ignored repeated knocks on his door and opened it only once, slipping a piece of paper outside. The terse, handwritten note read: “don't want to talk about it, do not know how she passed away but her are her pic!”
Attached to the paper was a proof sheet of two photos showing a sleeping, dark-haired newborn wrapped in a white blanket. They were photos of Jada De La Rosa, who was found dead about 7 a.m. outside Fire Station 10 in the 1100 block of Culebra Road. The fire station is three blocks from De La Rosa's house.
De La Rosa lowered his head and kept silent as police escorted him outside the wood-frame home he was sharing with the baby's 16-year-old mother and their 1-year-old son. He was arrested on a charge of injury to a child and remained in Bexar County Jail on $100,000 bond.
Baby Jada was wrapped in a blanket in a car seat when firefighters found her outside the fire station, nearly three hours after the parents rang the fire station's doorbell, according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained late Wednesday. A note was found with the infant's body identifiying her as Erica Laura Hernandez and went on to say the child needed immediate medical attention. The baby had bruising to her face, the affidavit said.
Police tried to obtain additional information about the infant but were unable to locate any child recently born with the name provided on the note. The name was then given to the Police Department's Public Information Office to alert media in order to get the public's assistance with the case.
Police received a call around noon Wednesday and the caller stated the description of the victim matched one of a child living at a home in the 1800 block of Navidad Street. When authorities arrived they contacted the victim's mother and father. The mother initially said her son was the only child she had, but then recanted and said she had a baby girl. She admitted that she and the father both wrote the letter and dropped off the baby at the fire station. The mother told police they provided a false name because she was scared and didn't want to get into trouble. She also stated the baby stopped breathing before they arrived at the fire station, the affidavit said.
The mother also told police the suspect had recently choked and slapped the baby because the baby would not stop crying. The father confirmed the accusation and added he often struck the baby because he would get frustrated with her, according to the affidavit.
“In this particular case, information from the public was essential in assisting with the investigation,” said Matthew Porter, a Police Department spokesman.
Throughout Wednesday morning, authorities were unable to say if Baby Jada was alive when the parents rang the firestation's doorbell. A firefighter who looked through the peephole of the front door didn't see anyone or hear anything, and so he didn't open the door, authorities said. The baby remained outside.
An autopsy had not been completed Wednesday evening, officials said.
It was not until the early morning, when a paramedic walked outside to retrieve the newspaper, that the baby was found “completely covered” in a car seat facing the front door, according to a police report.
Per an unwritten but understood San Antonio Fire Department policy, officials at Fire Station 10 don't answer the doorbell overnight if they don't see anyone outside. But if someone rings the emergency bell, which is above the doorbell, the entire station is alerted, said Melissa Sparks, a department spokeswoman.
“Being on this busy corner, we get the doorbell rung frequently,” Fire Chief Charles Hood said, “but we're going to have to look at our procedures.”
Hood said the four firefighters and two paramedics who were at the station when the infant was found were shaken by the incident and that a department chaplain was made available.
“They were very shocked,” Hood said. “It's something that no one wants to find — the sad thing is a life was lost, and it was a child.”
San Antonio fire stations are designated “safe baby sites” under the Baby Moses law, which gives mothers the ability to surrender a child — no questions asked — as long as the child is 60 days old or younger and in good health.
But, Sparks said, whoever left the baby failed to follow a significant step: Handing the child to a person.
“You must physically hand over the child,” Sparks said. “You can't just ring the bell and leave.”
Porter, the police spokesman, said Child Protective Services is investigating and trying to find appropriate care for the couple's boy, who was being evaluated at an area hospital Wednesday afternoon.
The couple's landlord, who declined to be identified, said she rented the house to the 16-year-old's mother and her boyfriend in February, but that after they moved out, the daughter and De La Rosa continued to live in the house. Even though rent had not been paid in three months, the landlord said she didn't evict them because she felt sorry for the young couple.
Mary Garcia, one of De La Rosa's neighbors, said Jada's mother would walk around the neighborhood asking for money, diapers and food for her baby.
“Sometimes she would come and knock on the door late at night and ask for money,” she said. “It would be after 11 o'clock at night when she'd come by. I felt sorry for her, so we would give her stuff.”
News Researcher Mike Knoop contributed to this report.
Father arrested after baby found dead
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