Mother charged, accused of leaving hours-old baby on Atlanta doorstep

Doretha Burkes

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Doretha Burkes

A young mother faces charges after police said she abandoned her hours-old baby on the doorstep of a northwest Atlanta home and lied to investigators about why she left the child behind.

Doretha Burkes, 22, is charged with reckless conduct, cruelty to children and providing false information to police, Atlanta police spokesman Sgt. John Chafee said Wednesday in a news release. The latter charges are felonies.

The baby was found early Tuesday on Frieda Burston’s doorstep in the 1500 block of Mary George Avenue, AJC.com previously reported.

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Burston was getting water when she heard what sounded like a baby crying, she told Channel 2 Action News. She walked outside her home and saw the child, who could not have been more than 5 hours old.

Burston picked her up, took her inside her home and called 911 just after 1 a.m. The baby was eventually taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, police said. The child was in good health in the intensive care unit Wednesday, according to Chafee.

Atlanta police Investigator Lt. Jeff Baxter said the baby girl, who weighs 5 pounds, 13 ounces, is in the custody of the Division of Family and Children Services.

“There were so many things that could have gone wrong,” Baxter said Wednesday during a news conference. “What if nobody had opened the door? What if nobody was home?”

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Investigators say Doretha Burkes, 22, reached out to them Tuesday afternoon to ask about the child's condition.

Burkes reached out to police Tuesday to ask about the child’s condition, Baxter said. She told investigators she was homeless and left the child on the doorstep after giving birth because she couldn’t take care of her, officials said.

“She advised us she was homeless, she was desperate, she didn’t know what else to do and that’s why she abandoned her child,” Baxter said.

Since 2002, Georgia has had a Safe Haven law, which allows parents to surrender a baby without facing criminal charges. The law gives parents up to 30 days from the baby’s birth to give up the child, but the parent must leave the child at a “safe haven,” such as a hospital or fire station.

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Burkes told police she did not know about the law, according to Chafee.

Investigators later learned Burkes was not homeless at all, Baxter said. Officials said the woman lived with her mother in southwest Atlanta and had been afraid to tell anyone she was pregnant.

“She gave birth to the child in secret, then took the newborn and placed her on a doorstep,” Chafee said.

According to Baxter, Burkes has another child. He said investigators believe Burkes was alone when she gave birth inside the apartment she shared with her mother. He said investigators believe she was afraid her mother would kick her out of the apartment for being pregnant.

“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “It’s sad. Obviously, it didn’t need to be this way.”

Burkes was booked into the Fulton County Jail. During a first court appearance Thursday morning, she was denied bond. Her attorney covered her face, and Burkes’ mother did not want to speak to reporters.