Police charge Wall mother with abandoning baby in woods
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Police have arrested a Wall woman who they said abandoned her 8-month-old daughter in the woods, claiming she needed a "fresh start."
Jennifer L. Cutruzzula, 24, told East McKeesport police Wednesday that she placed the infant on a hillside in Wall late Wednesday afternoon with a bottle of milk by her side before returning home, according to a criminal complaint.
A neighbor went to look for the girl in the woods and found the child soaking wet and covered in mud, with her face and neck exposed.
Police charged Ms. Cutruzzula with endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person.
The infant was taken to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC for evaluation and has been released.
Witnesses who saw Ms. Cutruzzula walking down Irwin Street carrying a small child called 911 shortly before 6 p.m. when the woman returned without the girl, police wrote in the complaint.
One of those witnesses said he saw the woman place the child on a muddy hillside and return to a car on Irwin Street. He then went to the woods to retrieve the girl.
Soon after the neighbors' 911 call, a woman, later identified as Ms. Cutruzzula, ran past the officer's patrol car, saying she had fallen in the woods and needed help.
A group of people who had just come out of the wooded area pointed at her and told police, according to the complaint, "That is her."
Ms. Cutruzzula told police she was having "family issues" with her mother and stepfather. She said she "thought she was doing the right thing," police wrote in the complaint.
At a late-morning news conference, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. used Ms. Cutruzzula's story to remind new parents considering abandoning their children that they have another option: the Safe Program, a concept that started in Allegheny County and has expanded nationwide.
Parents who can't care for their infants, Mr. Zappala said, can enter any hospital and drop off the child as long as abuse is not suspected.
"It's as simple as walking into a hospital and saying 'I want you to take that child,' " he said.
Two Pennsylvania state senators have proposed legislation to expand the law, giving police and fire departments the ability to accept abandoned children.
Mr. Zappala said Ms. Cutruzzula will likely be treated at a behavioral clinic and prosecutors will review her charges -- a felony and a misdemeanor.
She remained in the Allegheny County Jail Thursday on $50,000 bond, according to court records.
First Published March 1, 2013 12:00 am