A newborn girl was found near death yesterday morning in a plastic bag on a trash heap at a Germantown condominium complex, and by last night Montgomery County police had identified the child's mother as an 18-year-old, whom they charged with attempted first-degree murder.
A doctor at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital who treated the infant, named Molly by hospital personnel, told police that her temperature had dropped to less than 80 degrees and that she could not have lived outside longer than a few more minutes in the 24-degree cold.
Police identified the child's mother as Tanisha Patricia Montague, who is from Jamaica and is in the United States on a visitor's visa. They said she was staying with friends at the condominium complex and gave birth alone in an apartment there.
Montague was taken to Shady Grove hospital for treatment, then was held without bond last night at the County Detention Center.
Neighbors in the Farmingdale complex in the 13100 block of Wonderland Way, where the baby was found about 6:45 a.m., said a trash truck would have collected the refuse--and the baby--within 15 minutes.
The doctor estimated that the child was about six hours old and that she had been outside--naked--for about 30 minutes.
Authorities said that Molly has responded well to treatment but that it was too soon to know whether there would be lasting effects from the hypothermia. She was listed in stable condition last night, and physicians said they expected her to remain in the newborn nursery for several days.
Minutes after reports were broadcast of the baby's discovery, hundreds of people phoned the hospital and Montgomery County's Department of Health and Human Services with offers to care for Molly.
Today, Montgomery officials are expected to go to court to have custody of Molly transferred to child protective services, said Agnes Leshner, manager of the county's child welfare services department.
In March, an infant girl died after her mother, a French au pair, left the hours-old child on an Alexandria patio in near-freezing temperatures. The mother was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in September.
Yesterday, a woman walking her dog in Germantown heard what she thought was an infant's cry coming from a nearby hut used to store rubbish. The woman, whose name was not released, ran to a couple shoveling snow nearby for help, and Jaeffrey Kicherer pulled the baby--inside a plastic Kmart shopping bag that had been placed in a white pillowcase--from the trash.
"I started screaming, 'Oh, my God! Oh, my God!' " Kicherer, 39, recalled later. He said that embryonic fluid shrouded the baby's face and that much of her body was covered in blood.
Carrie Miller, 33, a neighbor who took the newborn into her apartment until medical personnel arrived, said the child's umbilical cord had been cut so close to her stomach that there wasn't enough skin for a belly button.
"She was breathing harder than hard, just trying to survive, it seemed," said Miller, a mother of two. "I just held her, close to my body, for warmth," she said later, trying hard to fight back tears.
Physicians said that the child "did well" on a series of medical examinations. Her body temperature rose sharply as soon as she received help, and she required "no aggressive treatment," they said.
Although there was still apprehension over the possible effects of hypothermia, Cpl. Derek Baliles, a Montgomery police spokesman, said the baby "appears to be fine and . . . doesn't appear to have long-term problems."
Daniel Ochsenschlager, an emergency room physician at Children's Hospital in the District, said newborns aren't as equipped as adults to regulate body temperature and generally don't survive after suffering the slightest degree of hypothermia, or decrease in body temperature.
When a child suffering from hypothermia arrives in an emergency room, the child is usually warmed under a heating lamp or put in a heating blanket. In the most severe cases, the child undergoes surgery so that warm fluid can be pumped into the abdomen.
"If she wasn't discovered about that time, there's a good chance she wouldn't have survived," Ochsenschlager said.
Staff writer Phuong Ly contributed to this report.
CAPTION: The abandoned baby, Molly, was in stable condition yesterday.