Angel Figurines Could Help Find Dead Newborn's Mother, Officials Say

Police hope someone will recognize the items that were found with Baby Angel.

Sept. 14, 2011— -- Police in Winona, Minn., are hoping some porcelain angel figurines will help them identify the mother of a dead newborn found floating in the Mississippi River.

Baby Angel, so named by police, was found Sept. 5 inside a tote bag with various knickknacks.

"We believe she had been in the river for a short period of time, likely less than a day," Drew Evans, a senior special agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said.

Evans said he hopes someone will recognize the distinct items found with the baby and call police.

The tote bag in which Baby Angel was stuffed has the name of a Mexican resort town, Manzanillo, embroidered on it.

The 7-pound baby was found wrapped in two garbage bags inside the zipped-shut canvas bag, Evans said.

Police found four angel figurines, ranging from 4 to 9 inches.

There was also a blue bracelet with a large, eye-like pendant and a green T-shirt with what appears to be the image of a slice of bread on it, police said.

Beyond the items, police have little to go on.

"It's extremely difficult to determine what her race or ethnicity is since she's so newborn," Evans said.

The Dakota County Medical examiner is investigating the baby's cause of death.

Despite the tragedy, Evans underscored what he called a "two-fold concern," saying the mother's health might be at stake.

"We believe she gave birth without medical assistance, part of that would be the condition of child," he said, adding that he couldn't go into more detail.

"Regardless of the circumstances, we want to let her know we have resources available to her," he said.

It's not the first time a baby has turned up dead in the Minnesota portion of the Mississippi River.

Three babies have been found upriver in Goodhue County in the past 12 years.

No arrests have been made in the other three cases, but officials and hospitals are using the most recent case to remind Minnesotans of the state's safe-haven law, which allows unharmed babies to be turned over to designated safe places within 72 hours of birth.

"Hospitals are trained on this. There is complete anonymity," said Rebecca Lamberty, the administrative leader for emergency services at Winona Health.

Fifteen children have been turned over to Minnesota hospitals since the law took effect in 2000.

All 50 states have safe-haven laws. The amount of time a newborn can be turned over after birth varies from state to state, with some requiring the child to be turned over within 72 hours, and others allowing up to 90 days.

In the case of Baby Angel, the mother was probably scared and unaware of the law, Lamberty said.

"We want to make sure mothers and their babies have a safe place," she said. "No questions asked."