LOS ANGELES – Jessie Canfield was attending a surprise birthday party with family and friends when she began feeling discomfort and cramping then ducked into a bedroom for several hours.
Partygoers told police she said nothing about giving birth to a 6-pound baby girl.
Canfield, 24, was arrested Wednesday, hours after trash collectors found a newborn dead in an overstuffed bin outside the Redondo Beach home where the party was held, police Lt. Joe Hoffman said.
"She's saying that she didn't know" she was having a baby, and she appeared "distraught over a tragic situation," Hoffman said.
After the party, Canfield left for Santa Barbara, where she stays with family.
Redondo Beach investigators found here there and took her to an emergency room for an examination and treatment before booking her for investigation of murder at Los Angeles County Jail. The name of her lawyer could not be immediately determined.
Detectives don't know if the baby was alive when she was dumped in the bin. The baby was found just blocks from a fire station where unwanted babies can be surrendered.
The Safely Surrendered Baby Law was passed in California in 2001 to allow parents to give up their babies without fear of prosecution at fire stations, hospitals and other locations. California is one of at least 46 states with such a law.
Through December 2009, a total of 331 babies had been surrendered to authorities since the law went into effect. Another 151 babies have been found abandoned during that time.
Deanne Tilton-Durfee, executive director of the Los Angeles County Inter-Agency Council on Abuse and Neglect, said it might be time to consider relaunching a public awareness campaign for the program.
After the law was passed, the county distributed brochures and advertised the toll-free 1-877-BABY-SAFE phone number on buses. But the campaign has gone dormant since.
The agency doesn't gather much information about who uses the service because parents can safely surrender their babies within 72 hours of birth with no questions asked.
However, Tilton-Durfee said many women who abandon their babies are teenagers or older moms who can't afford to raise another child.
The women tend to share a "distorted, hysterical" state of mind, she said, "because they don't know any alternative. They just want to find the fastest way to dispose of the baby and believe they can remain anonymous."
Women who intend to abandon their babies usually hide their pregnancies, Tilton-Durfee said.
Friends and family should talk to women who appear to be pregnant, asking if they're carrying a child and can use help, she said.