Mom: Woman who left baby in toilet can't remember
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina woman accused of giving birth in an arena toilet during the circus and leaving the baby told her family afterward she was bleeding heavily, but didn't know why.
As 24-year-old Jessica Blackham checked herself into a hospital six miles away, a cleaning crew found the 6-pound boy, his skin purple and breathing so labored he could barely cry. The custodians desperately followed a 911 operator's directions, one of them even whispering "vas a estar bien, bebe" (you're going to be OK, baby) as he used his finger to sweep some mucus from boy's mouth. The baby is in good condition at a hospital.
The details of Friday night came into focus when the cleaning crew talked to the media Wednesday about their discovery, and Blackham's mother tried to explain to a judge what had occurred.
"She had amnesia, couldn't remember what happened. She went there (to the hospital) of her own accord because she knew she was bleeding and something was wrong," Anita McAuliffe said at her daughter's bond hearing.
Jessica Blackham went to the circus with her sister and her family, but without her 4-year-old daughter. She has no idea what happened after she entered the cramped pink stall, giving birth and passing her placenta in a space less than three feet across, likely toward the end of the show. McAuliffe was not at the circus and it's unclear whether Blackham went straight to the hospital or somewhere else after the event.
Blackham has cooperated with police since the hospital notified investigators of her condition hours after she arrived.
"She's had periods. There's been no sign whatsoever of her pregnancy," McAuliffe said.
Blackham is charged with one count of felony child abuse and one count of unlawful neglect toward a child. Her bond was set at $30,000, and jail records indicate she has been released. If convicted of both charges, she could face up to 30 years in prison.
Blackham told the judge she had an idea who the baby's father was, but it wasn't her husband, whom she had been separated from for nearly a year.
Blackham's husband told WYFF-TV his wife's mental condition went downhill while they were married and he urged her to get help. He can't believe she didn't know she was pregnant.
"She has so much family that's backed her up. I don't know what happened," Thomas Blackham said.
McAuliffe said her daughter's husband became abusive after returning from a year in Iraq, a charge Thomas Blackham vehemently denied in the television interview.
Investigators estimate the baby was left behind for 90 minutes before a cleaning crew pushed open the closed stall door and found the infant, his feet in the water and head on the rim of the toilet. They immediately told their supervisors Eder Serrano and Marco Calle, who rushed inside.
The blood and gore, which Calle would only describe as "awful," stunned Serrano for about 15 seconds.
"First thing I told him was wear gloves if you're going to grab the baby," Serrano recalled telling his co-worker. "It was too late. He had already grabbed the baby."
Calle, a 41-year-old father of three ranging in age from 10 to 17, put the baby on the bathroom's changing table, whispering "vas a estar bien, bebe."
By that time, Serrano had called 911 and was relaying in Spanish the operator's instructions. Calle, so nervous that his hands were shaking, tied a string around the umbilical cord to cut it.
Paramedics arrived and whisked the baby away. Serrano and the rest of the crew answered questions from police as investigators collected evidence from the stall.
Then they went back to work. After all, there were events in just a few hours.
"I am the supervisor. I had to clean the bathroom for the next show," Calle said.
When he finally got home, Calle couldn't sleep. On Monday, he heard the police chief say the baby should survive. He smiled.
"I want to see him," Calle said. "I want to be sure he's going to be OK."