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Baby in Dumpster
19-year-old Juana Perez Valencia is facing 25 years to life in prison for dumping her newborn baby in a trash can after giving birth to her in a restaurant bathroom. She has been charged with one felony count of murder. California Penal Code Section 187 defines murder as the “unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” Her newborn girl was found in a trash bin outside of Sombrero’s, a Mexican restaurant in Orange County, where Valencia was working as a food server.
Valencia was arrested after she went to Anaheim Medical Center to be treated and doctors discovered she had recently given birth, though Valencia denied having been pregnant. An autopsy revealed that the baby, who weighed 6.3 pounds and was 17 inches long, was alive when she was left in the trash bin.
The Safely Surrendered Baby Law (SSB) was implemented on January 1, 2001, in response to the increasing number of abandoned baby deaths in California. In October 2005, Governor Schwarzenegger signed legislation extending the SSB Law permanently, effective January 1, 2006. The law is intended to spare the life of an infant by encouraging parents or persons with lawful custody to safely surrender an infant at a “safe surrender site” such as a fire station or hospital, within 72 hours of the child’s birth rather than abandoning them in an unsafe location. The law allows individuals to surrender their baby confidentially and without fear of prosecution. No questions will be asked of the individual. A parent or person with lawful custody has up to 14 days from the time of surrender to reclaim their baby.
In the first half of 2008 (January 1-June 30), 31 babies were safely surrendered in California. Los Angeles County leads the state with 59 babies safely surrendered since the program’s inception. As of June 30, 2008, 251 newborns have been safely surrendered in California while another 149 infants have been found alive following their illegal abandonment.