KEARNS — The faint noise sounded like a cat, but it appeared to be coming from inside a garbage can placed in front of a home on a residential street in Kearns.
The residents reached in to see what was making the noise. What followed was the shocking discovery of a discarded newborn child that sent police and medical personnel scrambling to save her life and others trying to get the word out about safe haven laws in Utah, which are in place to prevent such an occurrence from happening.
The newborn girl, who police say was born sometime during the past two days, remained in critical condition Tuesday, said Unified police detective Jared Richardson.
The girl was discovered with garbage on top of her and was suffering from minor hypothermia, Richardson said. He did not know how the infant was dressed. Investigators believe the newborn was placed in the trash container about 6 a.m., and police were alerted shortly after the discovery at 7:10 a.m.
At 7:25 p.m., police arrested the infant's mother, Alicia Marie Englert, 24, at her home, 5313 S. 5240 West. Englert was in the process of being booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of attempted murder Tuesday night.
Police said Englert told them she had the baby Monday and that she didn't provide any medical care or food for the infant, according to a jail report.
Englert also told police she was afraid to tell her parents about her pregnancy and that she discarded the baby "in hopes that it would die and solve her problems," the report states.
It was not immediately known Tuesday where the baby was born.
The newborn was taken by ambulance to Pioneer Valley Hospital and then flown by medical helicopter to Primary Children's Hospital in critical condition. Richardson said she was soon downgraded to extremely critical.
Englert appeared to be the only person living in her house and was not believed to have any other children, Richardson said.
"This is truly a tragedy in our community and one that affects hearts and minds," Mayor Ben McAdams said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon. "We all have to ask ourselves: Is there something we could have done to prevent it?"
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder, McAdams and staff members at Intermountain Medical Center reminded the public that there are many resources available for mothers who are struggling.
The Safe Haven or baby drop-off law allows for newborns to be dropped off at any medical center or 24-hour hospital without any questions asked if mothers want to give up their babies for adoption. The Safe Haven Law even allows newborns to be dropped off anonymously.
"It's absolutely crushing to us to imagine that a little one we could have possibly helped had we had that opportunity, we didn't get that opportunity," said Dr. Jennifer Plumb of Primary Children's Hospital.
Lisa Taylor, an Intermountain educator who works in the emergency department, said hospital staffers are trained to properly receive and take care of babies that are dropped off. After the infants are evaluated and provided with any medical attention needed, the Department of Child and Family Services is contacted for the child to be placed in a foster home.
"We just want the community to know there are resources available, they are not alone, and we can help," Taylor said.
How to get help
Since 2011, Utah law has allowed people to leave their newborns at any 24-hour hospital — no questions asked — without legal consequences.
"Desperate circumstances are hard to imagine," Plumb said. "I think people should know that they have options.
Salt Lake County offers a 24/7 crisis line at 801-587-3000 where mothers or others can learn about counseling services.
Call 866-458-0058 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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