ELMIRA, N.Y. – Two sisters who thought a dog was making noises near their neighbor's bushes discovered something shocking: a filthy 8-month-old baby girl who survived three nights outside in a white plastic bag.
"Her legs were just dangling in the bag. Her head was in the bag. Her whole head was covered all the way down," Kayla Seals told Elmira television station WENY.
The baby was hospitalized in stable condition Wednesday and the 17-year-old mother, Harriette Hoyt, was in jail facing a charge of attempted murder.
Hoyt, who lives 20 miles from Elmira in Sayre, Pennsylvania, came here to visit a friend Saturday morning and left the infant in the bag under some bushes around noon, said Chemung County District Attorney Weeden Wetmore.
Police say interviews with neighborhood residents identified Hoyt as the baby's mother. Her public defender wasn't available for comment. Weeden said Hoyt had no prior criminal history.
Kayla and Karen Seals found the baby early Tuesday afternoon. They called 911 and cleaned up the child. She was wearing clothing and a soiled diaper and had a rash over parts of her body, but showed no signs of other physical abuse, Wetmore said. High temperatures over those days reached into the 70s with a low of 48 degrees on Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service.
The baby, whose name was not released, was taken to a hospital for examination and transferred to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, where she was in stable condition and may be released to social services officials as early as Wednesday.
Elmira police Sgt. William Solt called the two women "heroes."
"My sister came out off the porch and went to the side to the backyard of my neighbor's house with a stick, thinking it was a dog," Karen Seals told the television station.
New York has a law that allows a parent to leave a newborn in a safe place, such as a hospital or fire station, without fear of being prosecuted, but it wouldn't have applied to the 8-month-old. The law was enacted in 2000 and amended 10 years later to increase the length of time when a newborn could be abandoned from five days after birth to 30 days.
Hoyt was being held on $250,000 bail and is expected back in court Monday.