Authorities have located the mother of a newborn baby who was left in a Christmas manger inside a Queens, New York, church two days ago and determined no criminal prosecution is warranted.
"The mother followed the spirit of New York's 'Safe Haven' law," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement after investigators spoke to the mother, whose wailing, hours-old baby was found with his umbilical cord still attached inside a nativity scene at Holy Child Jesus Catholic Church in Richmond Hill.
"It appears that the mother, in this case, felt her newborn child would be found safely in the church and chose to place the baby in the manger because it was the warmest place in the church, and further she returned the following morning to make certain that the baby had been found," Brown said.
Police said earlier Wednesday they were looking to speak with the mother of the baby to determine if she was OK.
The state's Safe Haven law allows a parent to leave a baby up to 30 days old with an appropriate person or in a suitable location where the parent promptly notifies an appropriate person. It wasn't clear if the mother in this case would face charges because the baby was left alone, and it didn't appear she immediately alerted anyone about the child.
Video obtained by NBC 4 New York offers a clearer picture of what happened moments before the child was left in the church. It shows the mother walking briskly up 113th Street with the newborn baby in her arms, then turning onto Jamaica Avenue and stepping into a 99-cent store. Still clutching the child, the woman moves to the linen aisle and grabs several purple towels. She pays and leaves without saying a single word to the cashier.
Minutes later and less than a half-mile away, the newborn was found swaddled in the same purple towels inside the manger of an unfinished nativity scene inside Holy Child Jesus Catholic Church.
Jose Moran, the church custodian who found him when he heard the baby's cries, told NBC 4 New York in Spanish that he's happy he was able to help save the baby. But he said his heart breaks for the child who was left alone on the wooden floor of the unfinished nativity scene with purple towels covering his face.
The Rev. Christopher Heanue recounted to NBC 4 New York Tuesday how he learned of the baby in the manger.
"The secretary burst in and said, 'Father, there's an emergency in the church, you have to come,'" Heanue said.
Bishop Octavio Cisnero, also there, couldn't believe his eyes.
"There was a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a towel," said Cisnero. "The umbilical cord was still hanging from the baby."
EMTs checked out the baby, and he appeared to be healthy.
Heanue said surveillance video from his church -- not released -- captured a woman entering the church about 20 minutes before the baby was found.
"A woman did come into the church with some bag, left the church and the bag was sort of dangling in the wind," he said.
Heanue said the parish has taken a special interest in the baby and some members have expressed an interest in adopting.
"This child, we believe, is a gift, almost, to this parish," said Heanue.
"God works in mysterious ways," he added.
The child is currently in protective custody.
There is a Safe Haven hotline in New York where a parent who wishes to leave their baby can call and have child care workers pick up the child: 1-877-796-HOPE. It's most important the baby is left with a person, not in an undisclosed location, authorities say.