Mother is said to drop newborn from window

January 06, 1995|By Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- Through the fall and early winter, Marisol Melendez hid her swelling abdomen under pullover jackets and baggy jeans. Her mother would later tell police she never knew the girl was pregnant.

At school, nothing appeared amiss. Always a little shy to everybody but a few friends, Ms. Melendez just seemed to be getting quieter, her friends recalled. Never slim, she just seemed to be putting on a few pounds. Her grades still were good.

Then, a day after her 18th birthday, alone in the bathroom of her mother's second-floor apartment, Ms. Melendez delivered FFTC 6-pound baby girl, and concealing her problem became a lot more difficult.

According to authorities, she propped open a bathroom storm window with a pair of scissors and dropped the naked baby onto the frozen ground near an alley trash bin.

"She just wanted to have the baby and get rid of it," Grand-Central District youth Lt. Jose Urteaga said yesterday.

Ms. Melendez had prayed and cried for three hours in the dining room before the birth Wednesday morning, police said. Prosecutors said she held back her screams during child birth so that her mother, who was home at the time, would not know what was happening.

Her actions as described by police seem to reflect the jumbled emotions and disturbed logic that experts say they sometimes see in cases of teen pregnancy. Full of fear and uncertainty, a pregnant girl might try to fool herself and others, hoping that the problem somehow disappears.

Such efforts obviously are destined to fail.

A neighbor found the baby later that morning, and by midnight police were taking a statement from Ms. Melendez. Yesterday, they charged Ms. Melendez with felony aggravated battery to a child. Last night, she was ordered held on $500,000 bond after prosecutors called her actions "malicious."

The baby girl, suffering from skull fractures and frostbite, was first treated at West Suburban Hospital Medical Center in Oak Park, where staff members nicknamed her Zoe, after the Greek word for life. The baby was transferred to Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, and was improving yesterday, in critical but stable condition.

"It's too early to say if she's suffered any permanent injury," said Dr. Marc Weiss, a neo-natologist and the attending physician for the baby at Loyola.

At Steinmetz High School, where Ms. Melendez was a senior, principal Kiamas Constantine said he was unaware that the girl was pregnant, while expressing sympathy for her situation.

"I guess the sad part is, Couldn't she trust anybody?" he said. "That's the tragedy."

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