Woman arrested in case of infant found dead in Mishawaka dumpster

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Mishawaka, Ind. Metro Homicide have arrested Purvi Patel, a 32-year-old from Granger, on preliminary charges of feticide, a Class B Felony, in connection with the case of a dead infant found in a Mishawaka dumpster.

Feticide, is defined as a person who knowingly or intentionally terminates a human pregnancy with an intention other than to produce a live birth, or to remove a dead fetus.

Formal charges are expected to come in the next 48 hours. Purvi faces up to 20 years in prison, with an advisory sentence of ten years.

The incident started with the discovery that left the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit working into the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Around 11:40 p.m. Saturday, police say a pregnant woman admitted herself to the ER at the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. However, medical staffers were unable to locate the infant she claimed to have just given birth to.

"The doctors there became very concerned. They questioned the female and were able to obtain information that the baby had been born at another location - a residence,” Sgt. Bill Redman said.

St. Joseph County Police reportedly rushed to the woman's upscale home along the 14300 block of Northampton Dr., in Granger's Fox Chase neighborhood, but found no infant.

Police say the woman was not initially forthcoming with information. She eventually told officers her baby was not at her home, but rather in a dumpster near the Super Target in the University Crossing Shopping Center located at 425 E. University Dr. in Mishawaka.

Responding officers ripped open dumpsters, tossing cardboard boxes and garbage bags about in the loading docks behind stores like Dollar Tree, Babies "R" Us and Petco as they frantically searched for the child.

“So our officers immediately came here to this location. They started searching the dumpsters and were able to find the baby. The fetus was found here, wrapped in a bag. It was pretty bad,” said Sgt. Redman, adding in his 19 years of police work, he’s never seen anything like it.

Metro Homicide investigators photographed and videotaped the dumpster, loading dock and alleyway behind Moe’s Southwest Grill where the infant was found. Yellow police tape kept the public about 150 yards back from the crime scene few could fathom.

The drop site does not appear to be random as a Moe's SUV sat parked in the driveway of the woman's home. Neighbors say Purvi's owns the Mexican cuisine franchise.

"We’re just trying to piece this together to figure out what exactly happened. She's being interviewed at the hospital, but first and most importantly, she's got to have medical procedures done to take care of the medical concerns first,” Sgt. Redman remarked.

Around 9:15 a.m. Monday, a basic autopsy was conducted on the infant. However, due to the tiny size of its body, a forensic pathologist is waiting for microscopic and toxicology reports to determine if the baby was stillborn or alive when delivered.

In a Monday afternoon press release, the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office said homicide investigators have interviewed a number of witnesses, including hospital staff. It’s also received three warrants to search the Granger home, mother’s cell phone and the vehicle she drove to the emergency room. It’s unclear what evidence has been collected.

According to a St. Joseph Regional Medical Center spokeswoman, Purvi was released from the hospital Sunday in good condition. St. Joseph County Assessor records indicate the owners of the nearly $375,000 two-story brick home are Riken and Purvi Patel.

Neighbors say three generations of the Patel family reside at the house; a group described as quiet and discrete. According to St. Joseph County Police, until Saturday, deputies had never been called-out to the residence, and the owners have no criminal record.

"This is definitely my first experience with something like this and it's not an easy one, but we've got the professionals here. The metro homicide unit has unfortunately had these cases before so they're veterans at this,” Sgt. Redman concluded.

Safe haven laws around the country allow birth mothers to anonymously leave their babies at a designated location and walk away – no questions asked.

In Indiana, babies less than 45 days old can be given up at any hospital emergency room, fire station or police station. The child is then put into the custody of the Indiana division of Family and Social Services.

In fiscal year 2012, the Hoosier State recorded two safe haven drops, both at a Vigo County hospital emergency room.

In Michigan, babies less than 72 hours old can be brought to the same safe haven locations as Indiana. Private adoption agencies care for the newborn, following a medical check-up to ensure the child was never abused or neglected.

Since 2001 when Michigan’s safe delivery law was enacted, 135 mothers have safely handed-over their babies. During that time, 130, or 96-percent, were dropped at hospitals, four at fire departments and one at a police department.

Berrien County has had two surrenders. In Oct. 2006, a 21-year-old woman delivered and surrendered her child at a local hospital, and in Nov. 2007 a 29-year-old woman did the same. Cass County however has seen no such cases.

To review Michigan’s full database of safe delivery statistics, click here.

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