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Mother Will Not Be Charged After Leaving Baby In Church Nativity Scene

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A woman who left a newborn baby inside a nativity scene at a Queens church will not face criminal charges, the Queens District Attorney's office decided late Wednesday.

As CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reported, the boy was wrapped in towels and still had his umbilical cord attached at Holy Child Jesus Church, at 111-11 86th Ave. in Queens, on Monday. Police estimate the boy was 4 to 5 hours old when he was found.

Police said surveillance video showed the unidentified mother carrying her newborn baby boy into a store, just minutes before she left him inside the church.

But late Wednesday, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said the mother seemed to have felt her newborn child "would be found safely" in the church, and evidently placed him in the manger because it would be the warmest place.

She also returned the following morning to make sure the baby had been found, prosecutors said.

The church is considered a "Safe Haven." New York's Safe Haven law says a person can leave their baby, up to 30 days old, with any responsible person at a suitable location.

Church staff and clergy members were shocked at the discovery of the baby.

Custodian Jose Moran said he returned from lunch Monday afternoon, and was doing his daily duties inside the sanctuary when he heard a baby crying.

Moran, a father of two, said he was stunned and saddened – "mucho tristesa y nervioso" – upon seeing the baby in the nativity scene. Members of the church have nicknamed the boy "Baby Jesus."

Bishop Octavio Cisneros of the Archdiocese of Brooklyn and Queens said not knowing the mother's circumstances, he was relieved she chose to leave the child in the safety of the church.

"The baby was crying, so obviously, he was well. He was breathing; had a good color," Cisneros said. "And we noticed that his umbilical cord was still attached."

Baby Left at Holy Child Jesus Church
(credit: Christopher Ryan Heanue)

Police tracked down the surveillance video at a 99-cent story near the church, which shows the young mother in a hooded jacket entering the store – carrying the baby wrapped in a coat.

She is seen picking up a towel and then paying for it at the front counter. The store clerk told CBS2 another customer seen in the video asked the mother if she was holding a baby, and the mother said yes.

Less than an hour later, the baby was discovered inside Holy Child Jesus Church, wrapped in the towel the mother had purchased.

"I was shocked, and yet really moved by it," said the Rev. Christopher Heanue. "You know, the church is meant to be home for those in need."

Members of the parish said there are already several people expressing their wishes to adopt the special baby boy.

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