Young mother admits to leaving newborn in dumpster

EVERETT — His voice was strong enough to save him.

The newborn cried out from among garbage bags and discarded appliances piled up in the industrial trash compactor. His faint cries reached a girl standing outside the dumpster at a south Everett apartment. “Baby Doe,” as the cops first called him, was just a few hours old.

The girl alerted a maintenance worker who had just pulled up to the dumpster. That woman scrambled inside, listening intently, not trusting her ears. “Baby Doe” cried out again. Paula Andrews moved aside some trash and a microwave oven. A tiny foot came into view. An Everett police officer crawled inside and rescued the baby.

The infant was suffering from slight hypothermia, but otherwise healthy.

The boy’s young mother, Samantha Houston, admitted Wednesday that she abandoned her son March 25, after giving birth to him in a shower.

Houston, 18, told police she panicked. The high school student “wrapped the baby up in a towel, walked clear across the apartment complex, and put the baby in the dumpster. Then she walked across the street to 7-Eleven to get something to eat,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Laura Twitchell wrote in the charging papers.

Houston pleaded guilty to second-degree abandonment of a dependent child, a felony. She faces up to a year in jail when she is sentenced next month. Twitchell plans to recommend a nine-month sentence.

Public defender Whitney Rivera is expected to ask the judge to grant her client a first-time offender waiver. That could spare the teen any jail time.

It took Everett police about a month to identify Houston as the boy’s mother. The Daily Herald published a story April 24, reporting that detectives were still searching for the woman. The next day an Everett detective received a tip from an anonymous caller, who said Houston was possibly the mother.

The tipster said Houston was seven or eight months pregnant when she dropped out of Cascade High School. When she returned to classes about a month later she was no longer pregnant. She was evasive with friends who asked about the baby. She left school again about a week before her arrest.

Houston denied that she was the boy’s mother when first confronted by police. Detectives collected a DNA sample from her. Investigators interviewed her a second time after talking to the teen’s friends and mother. Houston admitted that she’d tossed her son out.

The baby was placed in protective custody. In the days after he was rescued, Everett police received numerous calls from people wanting to help and even adopt the infant.

There is a dependency case involving Houston and the child. Those records are not public.

In Washington, mothers can leave their newborns — no questions asked — with a staff member or volunteer at any fire station, rural clinic or hospital emergency room.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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