Aurelio Fuentes Jr. said it was an “awful, chilling, moment” early Monday when he came upon a newborn baby in the middle of a dark Madera County roadway as he was delivering copies of The Fresno Bee in the Madera Ranchos area.
The Madera County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the discovery of the girl, who was found with an umbilical cord still attached, according to Fuentes. The baby was rushed to Valley Children’s Hospital shortly after 4:30 a.m.
Authorities are still trying to identify the suspect. According to a news release from the sheriff’s office, she was described by a witness as Hispanic, possibly in her early 20s.
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About 4:30 a.m., a woman driving a smaller white SUV stopped a man walking east on Avenue 13 1/2, Undersheriff Tyson Pogue said. She got out of her car and asked him if he could help her.
“She asked if he could take her child,” Pogue said. The man told her go to a fire station or nearby Valley Children’s Hospital, Pogue said. The woman then drove away.
A short time later, Fuentes was delivering newspapers on Avenue 13 1/2. He said he was grateful he was driving only about 5 mph when he came across the infant.
“If there was another vehicle, that baby would have been badly hurt (or killed),” he said.
Fuentes said he was approaching a customer’s house when he saw something white moving in the middle of the roadway. He thought it was an animal.
As he drove closer, he saw that it was a baby lying on its back, crying.
It was a disorienting sight and it took him a moment to realize what he was seeing. Then, he called 911 and got out of his car. The 911 operator told him to pick up the baby. He did, and tried to calm the newborn, who was wearing only a onesie without a diaper.
Just then, a woman drove up to ask if everything was OK, and Fuentes, still nonplussed, told her he had found a baby.
“She was as shocked as I was,” he said.
She told Fuentes that the heater in her car was on full blast, and suggested that the newborn be put in her car. The two unzipped the baby’s flannel onesie, and discovered the umbilical cord.
The woman suggested they take the baby to her house, but Fuentes told her authorities were en route. Moments later, sheriff’s office SUVs, an ambulance and a fire truck arrived. The baby was taken to the hospital.
Hours later, Fuentes was still shaken, imagining what might have happened. In addition to cars that sometimes speed on the pitch-black Ranchos streets, he thought of animals that roam the semi-rural area.
What if a coyote had found the infant first, he wondered.
Fuentes said he had delivered only about 40 of 130 newspapers to customers when he went home to recover from the emotional toll of the incident. He added that felt badly but hopes the subscribers understand. He promised he would finish delivering the papers Tuesday.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 559-675-7770.
The California Safe Surrendered Baby law ensures parents of babies can turn the newborn over to authorities for 72 hours with no questions asked. Safe surrender sites are hospitals or other locations, typically fire stations, approved by the board of supervisors or fire agency in each county, according to the law.
Jim Guy: 559-441-6339
Jim Guy: 559-441-6339