When the woman came out of the restroom, the guard escorted the foursome out of the hotel onto Front Street, never to be seen again.
Surveillance video from Fat Tuesday was too blurry to help. The DNA profiles and prints were entered into state and national criminal databases. They even were entered into an international Interpol database and in some civilian databases, such as ones that keep prints from gun buyers.
“We’ve had no hits,” Matt Haley said. “That’s puzzling to us.”
There have been three other unsolved homicides in Key West over the past 25 years, but this case haunts Haley because it didn’t have to happen. Florida’s Safe Haven for Newborns Act was passed in 2000.
“The mother could have taken the baby to a fire department or a hospital and given it to them with no questions asked,” he said. “The baby did not need to be disregarded like a piece of garbage.”
During the 12 years of the law’s existence, 183 newborns of seven days or younger have been left at safe havens around the state, according to statistics kept by the Miami-based nonprofit agency A Safe Haven for Newborns. They are not put into foster care but are taken to private, licensed adoption agencies. The number for a mom to seek help: 877-767-2229.
During the same time period, 50 newborns have been abandoned — 29 of them found dead. “And we don’t know about some babies who were left in unsafe places and never found,” said Nick Silverio, founder of A Safe Haven for Newborns. “We hope this sad story about the baby in Key West can highlight that there are safe places to take a baby and the mom can remain completely anonymous.”
Since 2000, in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, 45 newborns have been left at safe havens and 14 babies have been abandoned. In Monroe County, such cases are rare. During the past 12 years, no babies have been left at a safe haven, and there was only one other known case of an abandonment: In 2003, a dead newborn was found in a room at the Radisson Hotel in Key West. The mother, a North Carolina college student, was easily tracked down using rental car records. She was charged with manslaughter.
The Key West Police Department is currently comparing DNA with a homeless woman who was arrested on charges she dumped her newborn into a Fort Lauderdale hotel trash bin two months ago. But Haley talked with the lead investigator and does not think it is the same woman.
“We’re looking for new leads,” Haley said. “If anybody knows of someone who was pregnant in October 2004 and maybe went to Key West and all of a sudden was not pregnant anymore and you don’t know where the baby has gone. . . . Maybe she said she lost the child. Maybe she said she gave the child up for adoption.”
Anyone with information about the case should contact the detective unit of the Key West police at 305-809-1015 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-346-8477.