An Iowa father and his daughter both face first-degree murder charges after a newborn boy was left to die alone on the side of a snowy road, in a state where Safe Haven laws would have immunized them from prosecution had they left the baby at an authorized location.
Megan K. Staude, 25, gave birth to a baby at home in February, only to discard the helpless newborn with the help of her 64-year-old father, Rodney A. Staude, the Norwalk Police Department announced on Monday.
“On March 8th, the Norwalk Police Department was contacted with concerns for the safety of a child in Norwalk,” authorities said. KCCI reported that Megan Staude’s co-workers were the ones who raised those concerns that day. They noticed that she was no longer pregnant and were suspicious — and at least one neighbor was shocked but not surprised.
“Honestly, I was pretty appalled. Not really surprised though, just cause the vibe they gave,” Chris Hentschel reportedly told KCCI. “They were kinda weird.”
The report noted that the residence where Megan Staude gave birth is considered “unsafe to occupy.”
Investigators allege that Rodney Staude helped his daughter abandon the victim in a ditch along Delaware Street in Warren County, rather than bringing the baby to a Safe Haven, as defined by Iowa law:.
The Safe Haven Act is a law that allows parents – or another person who has the parent’s authorization – to leave an infant up to 90 days old at a hospital or health care facility without fear of prosecution for abandonment. A parent may also contact 911 and relinquish physical custody of an infant up to 90 days old to a first responder of the 911 call. More than 50 children have been declared safe havens since the Iowa law was enacted in 2002. All states have Safe Haven laws, although provisions differ.
WHO IS A SAFE HAVEN?
A Safe Haven is an institutional health facility – such as a hospital or health care facility or a first responder who responds to the 911 telephone call.
According to the law – an “institutional health facility” means:
A “hospital” as defined in Iowa Code section 135B.1, including a facility providing medical or health services that is open twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week and is a hospital emergency room, or
A “health care facility” as defined in Iowa Code section 135C.1 means a residential care facility, a nursing facility, an intermediate care facility for persons with mental illness, or an intermediate care facility for persons with an intellectual disability.
According to the law, “first responder” means an emergency medical care provider, a registered nurse staffing an authorized service program under section 147A.12, a physician assistant staffing an authorized service program under section 147A.13, a fire fighter, or a peace officer as defined in section 801.4.
In a phone interview with Law&Crime on Tuesday morning, Norwalk Police Chief Greg Staples said that it has been a “difficult” and “emotional investigation” for all involved.
“Luckily justice is being served for the baby who didn’t have any say-so in what happened to him,” Staples said, crediting officers who “buckled down and solved a case of this magnitude so quickly.”
Staples said that a cadaver dog named Montana, with the search and rescue group Iowa SAR K9, found the baby covered in snow.
“Safe Haven laws are there for a reason,” Staples emphasized. “It is a shame that because the Safe Haven laws weren’t used in this case we have the death of a newborn and two people in jail charged with the most serious crime that there is.”
The police chief hoped that shining a light on this tragic case will ensure that nothing like it will happen again.
“If there’s one thing that’s good that comes out of this investigation it’s that someone pregnant out there will see this story and their baby will have a life to live unlike this baby,” Staples said.
Autopsy results are pending, police said.
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