As Jorge Miranda was searching through a dumpster for recyclables in Merced, California, early one fall morning in 2004, he heard something moving. As he was lifting a few pizza boxes away to take a closer look, he got scared. Then the neighborhood heard him screaming and shouting. He just could not believe what he saw lying at the bottom of the trash receptacle.
Luckily, local resident Jimmy Alvarez and his wife, Annette, were among those neighbors who heard the commotion. After hearing Jorge’s screams just before 6:00 a.m. on October, 7, 2004, Jimmy ran out to the dumpster. It was located in the parking lot outside his home in the Sunnyside Apartments complex in South Merced.
Jimmy later told video news website DKN.TV that he immediately snapped into action and reached inside the dumpster. “There was a bunch of food and little gnats flying all around it. I didn’t think about it, I just reached in.” And it would prove to be this quick thinking that saved the day.
The startling find caused Jimmy to immediately dial 911 and resulted in the appearance of the local Riggs Ambulance Service and a vehicle from the Merced Fire Department. Subsequently, it also led to a manhunt by the Merced Police Department Investigations Unit to find the person responsible for what had been found in the garbage.
Not only had a crime been committed but the perpetrator was very possibly in need of medical attention. Unbelievably, the object that Jorge had seen in the dumpster and Jimmy had then fished out was a newborn baby. A tiny being wrapped in a filthy towel, who was only hours old – indeed, the girl’s umbilical cord was still present.
Jimmy spoke to the city’s Merced Sun-Star newspaper on October 10. He said that Jorge had looked “shocked, he was scared. The baby was lying in the corner of the dumpster, half naked.” Jimmy took off his own T-shirt and wrapped the newborn in it. He then handed the little baby girl to his wife, Annette, as he called for the emergency services.
At first, Jimmy and Annette thought the baby might be dead. “She was cold and she wasn’t really moving,” Jimmy later explained to the NBC-affiliated Sacramento TV channel KCRA. “But as soon as I was rubbing her and getting her warmed up, she gasped for air and cried.” it seemed it was the newborn’s turn to do some screaming. Nevertheless, her rescuer continued, “I think she was going to die if we had not found her.”
After getting medical attention at the scene, the baby was rushed to the city’s Mercy Medical Centre. With help from the public, Merced police then successfully tracked down the person who had put the alarming item in the trash. But the term manhunt turned out to be sadly inappropriate. In fact, the individual responsible was the mother of the child, a 13-year old girl living in the same Sunnyside Apartments block as Jimmy and Annette.
Indeed, Jimmy knew of the child and her parents. As he told the Merced Sun-Star, “I’d seen her and wondered if she was [pregnant], and then she didn’t look pregnant anymore, but I wasn’t sure.” He added, “She’s young and you don’t want to [say anything] because of her privacy.”
Jimmy went on, “I just don’t understand why she did that. She could have just given the child to us, and we’d have contacted the police and gone through the proper channels. At least [the baby] wouldn’t have ended up in the dumpster.”
In the end, the 13-year-old was taken to the same hospital as the baby, where it was confirmed that the teen had given birth recently. She subsequently received medical treatment, while her offspring was soon taken into foster care. With both baby and mother safe, Captain Tom Trindad of Merced police commented on the outcome. “Everybody feels much relief,” he stated, adding, “It could have been much more tragic.”
Apparently, the teenage mother, whose details were not released due to her tender age, told police that she had been aware she was pregnant. But, rather than tell her family she was with child, she had chosen to hide the pregnancy. The teen also admitted to having left the baby in the dumpster.
The girl, who was not charged with any crime, was then transferred to Merced County Child Protective Services. It was then up to Merced Police Department to track down the father of the newborn, and to ascertain whether the 13 year old had had a crime perpetrated against her.
Indeed, this was an urgent line of inquiry, as Captain Trindad told ABC-affiliated Fresno TV channel KFSN on October 13. The officer said, “We don’t know if the mother at this point in time could have been a victim of child molestation, so we have to determine whether that’s the case or not yet. So we have to look at all the factors.”
Another neighbor referenced Los Angeles County’s “Safe Surrender” unwanted-baby initiative in an interview with KCRA. One J.P. Morgan said, “I think there needs to be more information out there for these young women – troubled women. Those that don’t know that they can surrender a baby at a fire station, police station, the hospital – but not in the trash.”
Meanwhile Annette Alvarez told DKN.TV that she considered such an action unthinkable. She lamented, “I did not ever think that, here in our backyard. You know, a small little town.” Another female member of the Merced community interviewed by the video news website was also critical. She said, “It’s sad, you know, to do that… to throw away a baby like that. It’s a person.”
As for the baby, Jimmy and Annette very quickly announced their wish to adopt the foundling. It emerged that they had asked the responding paramedics if they could call the baby Milagro – which is Spanish for miracle. The Alvarez couple, who already have 37 grandchildren, are former foster parents and have filed papers for adoption proceedings.
It seems that they had their hearts set on adopting the baby girl, who had been placed in temporary foster care. Jimmy and Annette subsequently attended an introductory session to learn more about the adoption process. To underline their serious intent, they also bought lots of baby clothes for the newborn.
Annette explained her feelings to KCRA. “You know, if you would have held her, you wouldn’t want to let her go. You’d be fighting for her too,” the would-be mom said. “I’ve been a foster parent before and kids just touch my heart, because they don’t ask to be here.”
And Jimmy had some advice for anyone with an unwanted child. “You don’t want it, take it somewhere. Knock on somebody’s door – here, I don’t want it,” he told KFSN. He also summed up his feelings about Jorge Miranda’s extraordinary find to the Huffington Post. “It was a miracle she was found,” Jimmy said. “I’m just grateful it wasn’t dumpster day.”