Originally created 01/30/97

Johnston police investigate death of newborn



The Johnston Police Department is investigating the death of a baby whose mother, a 16-year-old girl, gave birth in a bathtub, authorities said Wednesday.

The girl, a ninth-grader at Strom Thurmond High School, gave birth to a nine-pound baby in the bathtub at her Johnston home Dec. 28, Officer Tony Taylor said.

The mother cut the baby's umbilical cord herself, the officer said.

When officers arrived, the child was dead, Officer Taylor said. But there were no obvious signs of how the baby had died, he said.

"It wasn't in water at all ... There was no water (in the tub) at the time," he said. "There's a lot of rumors that circulated within the first couple of days. These rumors escalated out of hand."

Officer Taylor referred questions to Johnston Mayor Dean Campbell about the baby's gender and whether it had been born prematurely.

Mr. Campbell did not return two phone calls to his home late Wednesday. There was no answer at town hall.

Authorities are still waiting for a report from state pathologist Joel Sexton before deciding whether to charge the mother in the death, Officer Taylor said.

"We've talked to the pathologist this morning (Wednesday) and have requested as quick as possible that we need to know something about it," he said. "They are talking - from what I understand - to experts in the field of pathology and infants."

Police are hoping to get a cause of death from Mr. Sexton's office in the next two days, Officer Taylor said.

Strom Thurmond High School principal Phil Musgrave confirmed the mother was a student at the school and denied reports that she was a homebound student.

"(The police's) hands are tied," he said. "If the pathologist said the child died of natural causes, they have a problem (with charging the mother). They've tried to keep it quiet until they can get the truth."