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Baby left overnight in woods; mother held

SoVaNow.com / April 21, 2014

A Crystal Hill-area woman is behind bars on a charge of felony child abandonment after she confessed to police to leaving her five-month-old infant daughter outside in the woods for a 17-hour period this weekend.

Rachel Pittman, 25, of Hodges Street, located north of Crystal Hill, was charged with abandoning the infant after she first reported her daughter’s disappearance to police Saturday morning around 7:45. According to Sheriff Fred Clark, Pittman initially told deputies that someone had entered her Hodges Street home Friday night after she and the baby had gone to sleep.

“The lady had said someone had stolen her five-month-old daughter sometime during the night,” said Clark. According to Pittman’s initial account, the alleged culprit had entered the home through a sliding glass door and snatched the baby away as both mother and child were sleeping across the room from each other.

“We knew what she was telling us didn’t add up,” said Clark.

Pittman was brought in to the Sheriff’s Office later in the day Saturday for further questioning by lead investigator Lt. Mike Womack and Sheriff’s Investigator Jeff Burton. During the interrogation, Clark said, Pittman made a startling confession: that on Friday night around 9 p.m., she had taken the baby and dropped her off in a wooded area located a quarter of a mile down a farm road. The farm road is located a short distance off Hunting Creek Road.

Around 2 p.m. Saturday, very soon after the confession, authorities found the infant safe and sound after spending the night in the woods. The infant was wrapped in a blanket and dressed in pajamas, “making a few noises,” said Clark. She was still in the spot that her mother had revealed moments earlier to police.

“Thank God the baby was alive,” said Clark.

The infant was taken to the local emergency room but aside from suffering from insect bites, hunger and dehydration, weathered the ordeal in “okay” condition, said Clark.

“She was hungry but other than that got a good bill of health,” he said.

The Department of Social Services was called in and transferred the infant to foster parents. The Sheriff’s Office made contact with the man believed to be the father of the child, living in Danville, and the infant’s grandmother. Neither was involved in the incident, Clark said.

The investigation is continuing and “additional charges will be forthcoming,” he added.

The sheriff noted that it was cold overnight and rain fell at times Saturday, and the child hadn’t eaten since the prior evening. “Just thank God she finally told us the truth,” Clark said.

Joining the search for the infant were members of the Halifax County rescue squad and Triangle firefighters and EMS personnel. As they set out to find the child, the searchers first gathered at a staging site of the Clarkton waste disposal convenience center — giving rise to rampant rumors that the infant had been deposited in a trash dumpster, Clark said. The rumor probably got started by persons listening in on the dispatcher’s communications.

Pittman is being held at the Blue Ridge jail.

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