Police and onlookers were stunned Thursday to find a dead fetus in the bag of a suspected shoplifter. The 17-year-old claimed she miscarried the day before and did not know what to do with the body.
Security guards stopped Tiona Rodriguez and her friend Francis Estevez, also 17, as they left the Herald Square, New York, Victoria’s Secret store. Officers noticed a strong odor coming from the girl’s bag. In the bag, they found the deceased male fetus wrapped in clothes inside a plastic bag.
It was not immediately clear how the fetus died, but preliminary autopsy reports on Friday morning suggested asphysixiation. Rodriguez was taken to Bellevue Hospital for observation and her fetus was taken to the medical examiner’s office. Most difficult for the medical examiners will be determining if the baby was born alive. If it is determined the baby was born alive, Rodriguez could face possible homicide charges.
Those who know Rodriguez seemed stunned. “She goes to school. She does what she has to do. She’s no problem. We grew up together. I’ve known her since she was little. She was probably nervous and didn’t know what to do. She would never hurt anyone,” a neighbor and friend told the New York Daily News.
A search of Rodriguez’ facebook page on Wednesday indicated she knew what was happening. A post read: “These Cramps SON.”
Amongst the preliminary findings, based on development of the fetus, Rodriguez was five or six months pregnant. The 17-year-old already has another child, a 2-year-old, and lives with that child and Rodriguez’ mother. Police are said to have searched that apartment where they found that neighbors did not know the teen was pregnant.
New York State has a Safe Haven Law, which allows a mother to drop off a baby, up to 30 days old, at a staffed hospital, fire department or police station with out fear of prosecution. Every state in America has some version of the Safe Haven Law.
Rodriguez and Estevez face charges of petty larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. There may be additional charges concerning the fetus. Amongst their things, police found $230 in clothes and cosmetics. It was staff tipping off the security guards that prompted the search as the two exited the store.
Written by Linda Torkelson