Death of Newborn Found in Trash Declared Homicide

Jessie Canfield (Redondo Beach Police Department)

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. — An autopsy of a newborn baby who was found in a Redondo Beach trash can determined that the infant died of asphyxia, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.

The death is being classified as a homicide, according to investigators.  The baby was found March 3 in a garbage can by a trash collector.  The newborn’s mother, Jessie Lauren Canfield, 24, was arrested later that day by Redondo Beach police on suspicion of murder. The District Attorney’s office, however, declined to file charges until the cause of death could be determined.

The case will now go back to the district attorney’s office which will decide whether criminal charges will be filed in the case.   Canfield had attended a surprise birthday party with family and friends at the home, before ducking into a bedroom for several hours and giving birth, Redondo Beach police Lt. Joe Hoffman said.

The young woman told police “she didn’t know” she was having a baby, and she appeared “distraught over a tragic situation,” Hoffman said.  Party guests told police that Canfield said she was feeling discomfort and disappeared into a bedroom and was not seen for hours.  She returned and said nothing to anyone about giving birth, Hoffman said.

A Consolidated Disposal employee discovered the 6-pound infant during a routine trash pickup in the 700 block of Irena Avenue, not far from Pacific Coast Highway.  The employee told police the trash can was heavy so he took some garbage off the top and found the infant’s body halfway down.  Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe called the discovery a tragedy that could have been avoided.

“Since 2001, we have had a successful alternative in the Safe Surrender Program, which is designed to prevent abandonments and save precious lives,” Knabe said.

“It provides a way for desperate parents to safely surrender their baby without fear of prosecution. Parents or family members can safely surrender their baby at any hospital and every fire station in Los Angeles County.”

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