- The Washington Times - Monday, July 7, 2003

A girl who was born and abandoned on the Fourth of July in Montgomery County is attracting would-be adoptive parents and donors as investigators search for her mother.

Dubbed “Baby Liberty” by hospital staff for her Independence Day birth, the girl has generated 30 calls from people wanting to adopt her or donate money for her, said Mary Anderson, spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Department of Social Services.

“We are having a barrage of calls about this,” said a spokeswoman for Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, where Liberty is receiving care.

Meanwhile, county police said yesterday that they would like to speak with a woman who was seen near the construction site on Brink Road near Laytonsville where the baby was found Friday. The woman was described as a white female in her 20s and weighing 160 to 170 pounds. She was seen driving and stopping near the site on the morning of July Fourth.

“We don’t know if this is the baby’s mother,” police spokeswoman Nancy Nickerson said.

Police and hospital officials asked the girl’s mother to come forward, saying they are concerned about her well-being.

It could not be determined yesterday what the penalty would be for abandoning a baby in Maryland. In May 2002, the state enacted “safe haven” legislation to allow parents of unwanted newborns to avoid prosecution under certain circumstances. The law requires the parent to leave the child within the first three days of life with “any responsible adult.”

Construction workers heard a baby crying about 1 p.m. Friday but did not find her until 6:15 p.m. wrapped in a white cloth and partially buried under tall grass in a heavily wooded section of the county. She was covered in ticks and other bugs. Her umbilical cord was still attached, and officials say they believe she had been born 12 to 24 hours before she was discovered.

Laytonsville resident Cheryl O’Hara’s home sits under hickory and maple trees just off the gravel road that runs by the site where “Libby” was found.

“I felt so guilty,” she said, adding that she had driven past the spot at least three times Friday and never heard the baby’s cries. “But it was hot, and the windows were up and the air was on.”

Mrs. O’Hara had not spoken to neighbors about Libby but said she saw police searching the area thoroughly on Friday. On the corner where Libby was found, the tall grass remains tramped down from police cars and search teams.

A spokeswoman at Shady Grove Hospital said Libby is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery. Libby had tick bites, bruises and scrapes, and suffered from dehydration when she arrived. She will most likely remain in the hospital for “some time,” the spokeswoman said.

Ms. Anderson said Libby will probably be released to foster care, adding that the adoption process usually takes 10 to 12 months.

Laytonsville residents are concerned about the issue and are remaining vigilant for clues.

“I was trying to think of anyone in the community who may have been pregnant,” said Charles White, former mayor of Laytonsville.

His wife, Barbara White, is also being vigilant. “I know every one in town,” she said. “I can’t even remember seeing a pregnant woman.”

Mrs. White tried to come to terms with why anyone would abandon a baby. “There are so many people who would love to have a newborn,” she said.

Residents yesterday questioned why the mother would not have taken advantage of the safe-haven law.

“To me, the intent was that the baby would not be found,” Mrs. O’Hara said.

Mrs. O’Hara said she will be interested to know whether Libby’s story turns out all right. “Libby probably needs her mother,” she said.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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