A mother who authorities believe abandoned her battered newborn outside a northern New Jersey high school is a well-liked teacher from a neighboring school district whom colleagues had recently thrown a baby shower, officials said Wednesday.
Superintendent John Fauta said the 37-year-old had taught math to special education students at West New York's Memorial High School since 2007 and received consistently positive work reviews.
"She's had very good evaluations and was a very good teacher," Fauta said. "The whole district is in shock, because she was characterized as a sweet young lady with a nice disposition."
The woman, whose name has not been released, is undergoing a psychological evaluation and has not been charged.
In a story first reported by The Journal of Jersey City, Fauta said the woman had been out on maternity leave since April and wasn't scheduled to return until September.
The 1-month-old girl was wearing only a diaper and was wrapped in a blanket when a parent found her at Weehawken High School on Friday. Prosecutors said the baby had serious injuries, including a fractured skull and multiple broken bones.
Hudson County prosecutor Edward DeFazio told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the infant's injuries seemed consistent with some kind of blunt force trauma, but authorities weren't sure if they had been inflicted before the baby was abandoned or perhaps caused by being dropped or thrown from a vehicle.
The baby underwent successful surgery at a New York Presbyterian Hospital's pediatric unit, according to DeFazio, who said she remains in serious condition but is expected to live.
DeFazio said authorities had not yet definitively linked the mother to the baby's abandonment but had not ruled out charges against her once the investigation is complete. She is currently at a secured psychological ward at Jersey City Medical Center, he said.
Shortly after the baby was found, police detained her mother, who was driving erratically, near Boulevard East, a road that winds along the Hudson River and boasts some of the most spectacular views across the water to Manhattan from New Jersey. DeFazio said that based on statements the woman made to police after they pulled her over, they were not searching for other suspects.
Back at the school where she worked, Fauta said, employees could not fathom that the woman they knew as a caring mother to two other children could have harmed her baby.
"This is a very tragic thing, I have a young child myself," Fauta said. "I just want all the facts before I take any action, because there may be some serious psychological issues, or post-partum issues, or something like that, and I think she should be given her day in court."