Preliminary autopsy results say 20-day-old Justice Rees, whose tiny body was found Wednesday at a remote slough near Knights Landing, may have drowned or died of hypothermia.
In an interview Thursday, Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto said authorities have no evidence the infant was a victim of homicide.
It remains a mystery why the baby’s mother, Samantha Green, 23, wound up screaming hysterically for help near the Ridge Cut Slough on Tuesday, three days after failing to show up at a party where she was to bring her newborn for a visit with family members.
Prieto said detectives believe Green drove her own car to the slough area with Justice – and no one else – traveling with her. The mother didn’t seem to know the reason why she was there, he said.
“I’ll tell you it is a whodunit right now,” Prieto said. “All we know is the child was with her. There is no else with her.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, Green made a panicked 911 call from the remote slough in Yolo County. Sheriff’s deputies found her, scratched and bruised, in a backyard near the slough. She was wet and crying for help. Her car was found parked near the opposite end of the slough, past deep thickets of brush and trees. Authorities said the distraught woman told them she had a baby but didn’t know where he was.
Nearly 17 hours later, deputies in a patrol boat found the body of Justice in thick brush near the Ridge Cut Slough on Wednesday morning.
Family members told reporters Wednesday and again Thursday that they believe Green was a victim of an abduction and physical abuse. But Prieto said authorities so far have turned up no evidence of that being the case.
Six Yolo County sheriff’s detectives have been assigned to the case in addition to investigators for the county District Attorney’s Office and Woodland Police Department, which took a missing person’s report Monday from Green’s sister and mother.
Prieto said autopsy results showed the baby could have drowned or died from “exposure due to cold air or cold water.” However, he said, “We are definitely not calling this a homicide. Definitely not. The baby was healthy in appearance and had no signs of injury and abuse.”
Prieto said Justice, who was clothed, had minor scratches on his upper chest and head. He said additional tests were to be performed to determine any contents in the baby’s lungs or stomach.
Yolo sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Larry Cecchettini said Green had “scratching and bruising” that could be consistent with her having ventured through thick brush “down to that levee in the area where the baby was found.”
Samantha Green’s father, Randy Green, 50, of Sacramento said in an interview that he believes his “daughter was abducted and she was assaulted.”