MADERA COUNTY, CA (KGPE/CNN) - Authorities are asking for the public’s help finding the mother of a newborn, who was abandoned in the middle of a California roadway.
Newspaper carrier Aurelio Fuentes Jr. was on his delivery route early Monday morning when he noticed what he thought was an animal lying in the road. He slowed down, which was when he heard the cries for help.
“And then, I heard the baby crying and screaming. I was like, ‘OK, this is a baby. I gotta get out there,’” Fuentes said. “God knows how long it’s been out there, and it’s below 30 degrees.”
Fuentes says the infant still had its umbilical cord attached. She was cold and wearing only a onesie. He quickly called dispatch while holding the baby girl in the other hand.
"You could see the umbilical cord still attached to it, so this baby was barely born. I can’t tell for how long, but it had feces leaking through its onesie,” Fuentes said. "It was just a chilling, trembling moment. I was in shock. I was shaking.”
Another person pulled over to help him with the newborn, and minutes later, a California Highway Patrol deputy arrived.
The baby, determined to be just hours old, was taken to the hospital, where she is being treated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, according to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office. She is expected to make a full recovery.
The sheriff’s office says just before Fuentes found the infant, a Hispanic female, possibly in her 20s, in a small white SUV approached a man walking his dog in the area. She reportedly asked him for help and to take her baby.
The man told the woman both a fire station and a hospital were nearby and could take the baby, but the woman drove off.
"It’s very difficult to deal with this type of situation, but we do want people that are in this mother’s situation to know that there are other options. Leaving a baby in the middle of the roadway was definitely not the best option. She should have taken it to a safe surrender site,” Undersheriff Tyson Pogue said.
Legal analyst David Mugridge says if the mother is arrested, she will likely be charged with felony child endangerment, which carries a possible 10-year prison sentence.
"You could tell they placed the baby there. They didn’t toss it. They placed it there,” Fuentes said.
Officials say they want to remind everyone of California’s Safely Surrendered Baby program, which allows parents to safely turn over an infant within 72 hours of birth with no questions asked.
Safe surrender sites are typically found at hospitals or fire stations.