A woman who misled police about her infant’s whereabouts before finally admitting the child was dead in a freezer at the family’s home said the child drowned before he was placed in the freezer and that she ingested rat poison to try and kill herself, a Monroe County Sheriff’s Office incident report says.
After first telling officers she tossed her 4-month old son into chilly waters below Marathon’s Seven Mile Bridge, then insisting he was home safe with family, Paola Vargas-Ortiz told Monroe Sheriff’s Deputy Rosa DiGiovanni, “I was bathing it and it slipped out of my hands,” the report says.
When DiGiovanni asked her what “it” was, the woman replied: “My baby was a boy.”
After a frantic search Sunday afternoon, first by Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies, then by Homestead police officers, the infant was finally located, dead in a freezer at Vargas-Ortiz’s father’s home in a gated community in Homestead. Miami-Dade police are now investigating.
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Vargas-Ortiz, 37, is being evaluated at Jackson Memorial Hospital while the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner tries to determine the cause of death of the 4-month-old, whose name hasn’t been released. The police report says Vargas-Ortiz lives on Miami Beach.
No charges had been filed against her by Wednesday night.
Though the infant was found Sunday, details didn’t begin to emerge about the discovery of the child until late Tuesday and Wednesday. There was no access to Vargas-Ortiz family home at 2482 NE Third Ct., inside a gated subdivision in Homestead called the Isle of Oasis. It wasn’t clear who lived at the home or if anyone was there when police arrived Sunday. And until a cause of death is determined, law enforcement was holding off on pressing any charges.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s police report said the mad scramble to find the infant began shortly before 3 p.m. Sunday when Vargas-Ortiz called 911 and said she was on the bridge ready to commit suicide, then hung up.
Using GPS from her cell phone, deputies found her about 70 yards from the north entrance to the old bridge. She said she was depressed, led them to her parked blue 2011 Ford Escape, mentioned that she had ingested rat poison, and then said she tossed her child over the side of the bridge.
At her car, and as officers began pressing her about her infant, Deputy Leon Bourcier said in his statement that Vargas-Ortiz began to get teary-eyed, then said, “I think I need a lawyer. I need a lawyer.”
A brief search by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission in the waters below and around the bridge was called off when Vargas-Ortiz finally told officers where her child was and after Homestead police located him.
At one point, according to the police report, Vargas-Ortiz’s brother called her cell phone and Deputy DiGiovanni answered it. When the infant’s uncle asked for his sister and her son, the officer says in her report, “I told I. Vargas [the brother] that I could not say anything but that he could go and ask the police at his house. I then hung up the phone.”
Officers called emergency medical services and escorted Vargas-Ortiz to Fisherman’s Community Hospital in Marathon. They later drove with her to Jackson Memorial, where she remains.
The incident immediately brought to mind the sordid saga of 11-year-old Janiya Thomas, found stuffed in a padlocked freezer in a Bradenton home in October. Janiya’s mother, Keishanna Thomas, was indicted on first-degree murder charges in December. Family members said they hadn’t seen the child for a year before the discovery, and prosecutors believe there is a long history of abuse.
Michelle Glady, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Families, said the agency opened a death investigation into the 4-month-old infant found Sunday. DCF has no prior history with the family, she said.