Last Friday, the Barry County Sheriff's Department began investigating the death of a newborn baby who was found wrapped in a plastic bag inside a closet at a Seligman residence.
On March 21, Sergeant Justin Thompson, of the Bentonville, Ark., Police Department, called Chief Deputy Leonard Collins, of the Barry County Sheriff's Department, to report that a 16-year-old female from Seligman had been admitted to a Bentonville, Ark., hospital for a miscarriage.
Thompson informed Collins that the attending physician at the hospital stated that the teenager had possibly given live birth. The Arkansas police sergeant also provided Collins with the address to a residence in Seligman.
Collins reported the incident to Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly, Captain Dana Kammerlohr and detectives Brian Martin and Doug Henry, who later obtained additional information that the teenager was living on East Roller Ridge in a subdivision known as Walnut Heights.
When members of the sheriff's department arrived at the residence in Seligman, they found the residence locked and no one home.
As the department investigated the incident further, they obtained information from the teenager's 18-year-old sister, who said she had visited the home at 4 p.m. on March 20. At that time, the teen's sister said that she found blood covering the hallway and bathroom of the mobile home.
After receiving this information, Collins contacted the teenager's mother who stated that she had taken the girl to St. John's Hospital-Cassville after the teenager began hemorrhaging. Physicians transported the teenager to the Bentonville, Ark., hospital to undergo surgery.
While talking with the teen's mother, Collins asked for permission to enter the residence and look for a baby. The girls' mother sent a family member from Bentonville, Ark., to Seligman with a key to unlock the door of the home at around 11 a.m.
After the deputies entered the residence, they received a phone call from the teen's mother who stated that her daughter had told her where the baby was located. The infant was discovered in a plastic bag inside a closet at the home.
As deputies began photographing the baby and the scene, Epperly notified Barry County Coroner Skip White about the incident. White responded to the residence and transported the baby to a facility where an autopsy was performed on March 22.
"The autopsy showed the baby did have air in its lungs so we believe it did take a breath," said Epperly.
White said he intends to put "probable asphysiation" on the infant's death certificate.
"I want people to understand that these situations are not always as clear as the community might think," said White. "In my opinion, I don't believe this girl set out to kill her baby."
"It's a very, very sad deal for all of the officers who had to deal with it," said Epperly. "I?hope we never have to deal with this again."
Juvenile authorities have taken the teen into custody. She will be placed in detention while juvenile officers conduct evaluations, said Epperly. A hearing will be scheduled at a later date.
The Barry County Sheriff's Department will continue its criminal investigation into the incident. Epperly said he hopes to submit a report to the local juvenile office within a few days.