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Body in New Bedford was infant girl

Authorities seek public’s help finding mother

NEW BEDFORD — A deceased newborn whose body was discovered Friday evening behind a home on County Street was a girl, Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter’s office said on Saturday.

In a statement, the office disclosed the gender of the child and said she was Caucasian and weighed about 6 pounds.

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No other identifying information was released.

The body was discovered around 6:30 p.m. outside a three-story home on County Street under a rear staircase, according to neighbors and authorities.

Neighbors said the baby’s umbilical cord was still attached.

For the second straight day, Sutter’s office appealed to the public for help in identifying the baby or the mother, as well as the mother’s whereabouts. Authorities said the mother may need medical attention.

“New Bedford Police, Massachusetts State Police Detectives assigned to this office and prosecutors are continuing to canvass the area,” the statement said.

Residents of the home where the body was found and neighbors on Saturday expressed shock at the gruesome discovery the night before.

Lillian Torres, 46, a resident of the home, said she heard screaming in the back of the house Friday evening and went outside, where she saw the infant lying in the fetal position near the staircase on top of a sweater.

She said the girl had no visible injuries.

“Whoever did it, God have mercy on their soul,” Torres said.

Authorities did not say on Saturday whether the case was being treated as a parental abandonment.

The advocacy group Baby Safe Haven New England released a statement noting that under Massachusetts law, parents can surrender infants up to 7 days old to “any staffed fire station, police station, or hospital” without fear of criminal charges.

“There is no prosecution if you follow the Baby Safe Haven law, and the young woman can walk away with no questions asked,” the group said.

The law was enacted in Massachusetts in 2004, and at least 15 infants have been surrendered since then.

Priscilla Feliciano, 36, was visiting her mother, who lives directly behind the house, when she saw investigators.

She said a resident in her mother’s building called police after seeing the body wrapped in a sweater and partially visible underneath the back staircase.

“It was so sad,” said Feliciano, the mother of a 5-year-old. “Why are you going to do that?”

Harry Patel, the owner of Coggeshall Food Market, which is near the home where the body was found, said he was working behind the counter when the discovery was made, and customers later told him what happened.

“That’s just sad,” he said. “It’s bad for the neighborhood.”

Patel said he has owned the store for six years and has never experienced anything nearly as unsettling in the area.

“A little bit of fighting, but not like that,” he said.

Torres said the discovery Friday night comes a couple of years after an infant was beaten to death in a nearby home.

“We want to move,” said Torres, a mother of four and grandmother of five.

Torres’s daughter, Tamlyn Gonzalez, 22, said she also saw the baby on Friday evening.

“I actually was pale-faced for about an hour,” she said.

Gonzalez said she saw an empty diaper bag with a baby bottle on the side of the house earlier in the week and thought nothing of it at the time.

A memorial of four candles was near the home on Saturday morning.

Torres added that she lived for more than 20 years in Newark, “one of the worst cities in New Jersey, and I never saw anything like that.”

Anyone with information about the case is urged to call New Bedford police at 508-991-6300 or leave an anonymous tip at 508-961-4584.

Globe correspondent Dan Adams contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.

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