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New York

Baby Found in East River Died of ‘Homicidal Violence,’ Medical Examiner Says

The body of Mason Saldana was found floating in the East River Aug. 5; the boy's father was arrested in the dumping of the boy, but questions remain about how he died

What to Know

  • The body of 6-month-old Mason Saldana was pulled from the East River after a tourist saw him floating on Sunday, Aug. 5
  • The boy's father was apprehended in Thailand and charged in NYC with concealment of a corpse; it wasn't clear if he'd face upgraded charges
  • NYPD released a heartbreaking timeline of the events leading up to the infant being found in the river -- though crucial chunks are missing

The medical examiner's office has ruled the 6-month-old boy found floating in the East River last summer died of "homicidal violence," though authorities cannot determine exactly how he died. The development in the case, which drew national headlines, Friday marked the first update in months. 

"While the exact cause of death cannot be determined, various factors indicate beyond reasonable doubt that recent homicidal violence occurred," Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said in a statement on Mason Saldana. 

Saldana, wearing only a diaper, was plucked from the water Aug. 5 by a tourist from Oklahoma. His father, James Currie, was charged with concealment of a human corpse after he was apprehended in Thailand days later and flown back to the U.S. It wasn't immediately clear if prosecutors would seek to upgrade charges against him given Friday's ruling.

Prosecutors have said Currie sent taunting text messages to the baby's frantic mother, including one that read "You will never see Mason again." 

Currie's attorney, Norman Williams, said after an initial court hearing, "Everybody needs to keep an open mind and not convict this man until they see evidence that he did something wrong."

NYPD officials have released a heartbreaking timeline of the events leading up to the infant being found in the river -- though crucial chunks are missing. 

Saldana, who was born in January, was alive when he was exchanged between the mother and father at the mother’s residence around 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 4, NYPD Chief Dermot Shea previously said. About 24 hours later, when the child’s father was seen leaving his home with a backpack covered with a blanket, fashioned as a baby carrier, the baby was likely dead, officials said. 

MTA records show Currie, an employee with the agency, was issued a MetroCard and that MetroCard was used to board a bus in the Bronx. It was used again in Manhattan, at 23rd Street. Currie was then seen walking in lower Manhattan, between South Street Seaport and Wall Street Heliport, around 3:10 p.m. with the backpack, officials say. According to a criminal complaint, the MetroCard was used about 54 minutes later to enter the transit system at Chambers Street. Video surveillance showed him enter the transit system -- the blanket that had been covering his chest was gone and he had no baby with him.

The baby's mother tried to get in touch with Currie before sensing something was amiss, and she contacted authorities the day after the boy's body was found in the river. During the "bloodcurdling" call to 911, the mother said the child was not dropped off at day care, Shea said, adding that she'd heard about the child in the water, feared the worst and started crying.

It was because of that call that authorities were able to identify the child. According to officials, there was a court-stipulated agreement for visitation involving the parents, who were not legally married, and the child, but there were no red flags. Currie remains remanded to jail in Brooklyn pending a followup court appearance next month. 

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