“After a full review of all the facts and circumstances surrounding the discovery of a newborn infant this past Monday in a crèche inside of Holy Child Jesus Church in the Richmond Hill section of Queens County — including locating and interviewing the mother — my office has determined that no criminal prosecution of the child’s mother is warranted,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.
CBS New York reported that around 11:30 a.m. Monday, a custodian at the church left the empty chapel to get lunch. When he returned shortly after 1 p.m., he heard a baby crying, but saw no one else around.
That’s when, according to New York City police, the custodian turned to a nativity scene in the front of the church and saw a newborn baby wrapped in towels laying in the manger. Church pastor Christopher Heanue wrote on the church’s Facebook page that the baby was a boy and weighed a little more than five pounds.
Authorities believed he was four to five hours old when he was found. Emergency crews brought the newborn to a local hospital, where he was in good health, police said.
Custodian Jose Moran, a father of two, told CBS New York he was stunned and saddened – “mucho tristesa y nervioso” – upon seeing the baby in the nativity scene. Members of the church have nicknamed the boy “Baby Jesus.”
Bishop Octavio Cisneros of the Archdiocese of Brooklyn and Queens said not knowing the mother’s circumstances, he was relieved she chose to leave the child in the safety of the church.
“The baby was crying, so obviously, he was well. He was breathing; had a good color,” Cisneros said. “And we noticed that his umbilical cord was still attached.”
A baby boy was found abandoned in the manger of a nativity scene at a church in Queens, New York, on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. CHRISTOPHER RYAN HEANUE/CBS NEW YORK
New York has a so-called Safe Haven Law that says a newborn up to 30 days old can be dropped off anonymously at a church, hospital, police or fire station without fear of prosecution. But the law, known as the Abandoned Infant Protection Act, requires that the child be left with someone or for authorities to be called immediately.
Police said that didn’t happen in this case, which led investigators to begin searching for the mother.
Authorities said surveillance video from a nearby store shows the unidentified mother carrying her newborn baby boy into a store, just minutes before she left him at the church.
The woman is seen picking up a towel and then paying for it at the front counter. The store clerk told CBS New York another customer seen in the video asked the mother if she was holding a baby, and the mother said yes.
In deciding not to bring charges, Brown said the mother followed the spirit of the Safe Haven law.
“It appears that the mother, in this case, felt her newborn child would be found safely in the church and chose to place the baby in the manger because it was the warmest place in the church, and further she returned the following morning to make certain that the baby had been found,” Brown said.
“I was shocked, and yet really moved by it,” Heanue said. “You know, the church is meant to be home for those in need.”
Members of the parish said there are already several people expressing their wishes to adopt the baby boy.