Secret Witness reward offered in case of baby found in trash

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Weeks after the body of a newborn was found in an Oildale trash can, investigators said Monday that they've run out of leads and they need more tips from the public.

Meanwhile, neighbors in the area said they want more information from the officers.

"We know there's somebody out there who can help us with this case," Kern County Sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt told Eyewitness News. "Help us solve this case. And, this child deserves that.

The infant's body was found June 21 in a resident's trash can in the 500 block of Beardsley Avenue. Pruitt said investigators got dozens of tips, and they've followed up on all of them.

"Unfortunately, nothing has panned out," he said.

That's why a Secret Witness reward is now being offered for "information leading to the person or persons responsible" for putting the baby's body in the trash can.

Pruitt said the case is being investigated as a possible homicide, but they simply have very little to go on. That's why they hope the reward will bring in more information.

"Of course they need more information," Reggie Groves said. He's the man who found the child in his trash can as he brought it in from the curb that morning. "But obviously, I think they need to put out more information."

Pruitt said officers can't release everything, because they don't want the case compromised while the investigation is still active.

"There are some certain details that we haven't released," he said.

Officers have said the baby was a girl, who was probably full-term and born no more than several days before the body was found. Pruitt said the body was probably put into the trash can the night before Groves found it, or very early that morning.

A shaken Groves had told Eyewitness News the infant's body appeared to be discolored, with possibly an injury to the head. Again, Pruitt said there's only so much investigators can say at this point.

"There was trauma to the upper area, the upper portion of the infant's body," he said.

Pruitt said officers believe the baby's mother is most likely local. He said if someone from out of the area wanted to leave the body someplace, they would have picked a location closer to a freeway.

"We know somebody in this community knows who this baby is," Pruitt insisted. "And potentially knows who the mother is."

Groves wondered if that mother was also a victim of foul play.

"Maybe she's missing and dead," he speculated.

Groves said neighbors had heard there was a missing woman in the area. Pruitt said he had no information about that. Pruitt also said officers had checked into reports a woman in the neighborhood had been pregnant, and had no baby. The spokesman said that didn't pan out.

Another neighbor asked when officers will release information on the cause of the infant's death. Pruitt said the initial autopsy didn't pinpoint that, and the coroner needs more test results to make a determination.

After the discovery of the baby's body, neighbors had set up an impromptu memorial where the trash can had been. Groves said he just removed the candles and stuffed animals, it was just too hard to see that day after day.

Eyewitness News has discovered plans to bury the infant in a special, new section of Union Cemetery. A nonprofit group called Garden of Innocence is just organizing here, and on Friday they met with cemetery and coroner officials.

The cemetery director said it's likely this baby can be laid to rest in the new section in early September.

Pruitt said officers have very little evidence from the scene, and no witnesses.

"We're continuing to ask for the community's assistance in solving this case in identifying this child," Pruitt said. "These are the types of cases that can be solved, because somebody knows something about this baby. Babies just don't go missing."

Anyone with information is urged to call Secret Witness at (661) 322-4040. Callers can remain anonymous.

Neighbors hope someone does come forward. Steven Peterson said he's not surprised the case still hasn't been solved, but he is disappointed.

Groves wants to know what happened.

"I just wish somebody would come forward," Groves said. "I just wish the person that did it would come forward with their conscience."