Baby alive at birth? Police probing this and other questions
BY RYAN ROBINSON, Staff Writer
Authorities have not determined if a baby found in a city high school trash can on Tuesday was born alive or was stillborn.
Investigators say Cherlie LaFleur, 19, of the 300 block of North Marshall Street, gave birth in a bathroom stall at McCaskey East High School, then discarded the male infant in the trash can.
They arrested the McCaskey East student Wednesday but have so far only charged her with concealing the death of a child.
An autopsy was conducted Wednesday, but Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni has not determined if the baby was born alive.
"It's a difficult determination to make," he said Thursday. "It's hard to tell if the baby's heart rate stopped three or four minutes before birth or after."
Before ruling on a cause of death, Diamantoni said he must work more with law enforcement and get results from blood studies.
One thing being checked, for example, is if an infection could have played a role in the death, he said.
City police Capt. Kent Switzer said no new information on the police investigation was available Thursday.
Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman also released little new information, citing the ongoing investigation.
Investigators are "broadening their scope to fill in the history as well as reach out to witnesses," he said.
Stedman would not predict if or when any additional charges against LaFleur might be filed.
"There is nothing to suggest anyone else was involved," he said.
The School District of Lancaster continues to work with local authorities on the case, according to a district press release issued Thursday.
McCaskey campus staff met Thursday morning to discuss the matter, it said.
Staff and students directly affected by the situation can meet with counselors in special "safe rooms" at both of the district's high schools.
The district offers many student services, including a Teen Elect program to support students who are pregnant, and both male and female students who are parenting.
In addition, trained mental-health professionals provide on-site counseling services, and community-education liaisons can connect families with needed resources.
Any student, staff, community or family member can make a referral to these services by contacting their child's school, or the coordinator of School, Family and Community Partnerships at 396-6501.
LaFleur was arraigned Wednesday night and committed to Lancaster County Prison in lieu of $1 million bail.
She gave birth in a bathroom stall at the 1051 Lehigh Ave. school Tuesday afternoon and tried to flush the baby down the toilet, according to Lancaster city police.
When that didn't work, she disposed of the body in the trash can.
A custodian discovered the infant's body around 10 p.m. Tuesday.
The autopsy showed the infant was born at 27 to 29 weeks, officials said. Most babies born at that point would survive with proper care, Diamantoni has said.
Detectives conducted interviews and reviewed video footage, which led to the identification of LaFleur as the mother, police said.
Switzer said he did not believe the woman sought medical treatment after giving birth.