As the search continued for the parents of an abandoned newborn girl found "buried alive" in Compton, investigators said Monday that the child was believed to have been born in a hospital and she likely would not have survived overnight.
Her cries were first heard by two women who were talking a walk on the riverside bike path in the area of West 136th Street and North Slater Avenue around 4 p.m. Friday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The women called 911.
"They heard what sounded like an animal making a noise, or a baby's cry. It was muffled," Sheriff Jim McDonnell said at a news conference Monday.
Deputies Adam Collette and David Perry of the sheriff's Compton Station responded, searching for the source of the sound.
“We were expecting to find an animal or a doll,” Collette told KTLA.
The cries came from a 2-foot-wide hole in the bike path's pavement, McDonnell said.
In disbelief, the deputies dug beneath loose dirt, vegetation and two large pieces of asphalt.
"As they dug, they located a newborn baby girl, buried alive among the debris," McDonnell said. "She was wrapped in what appears to be a hospital blanket, and her face was covered with the loose dirt."
She was cold to the touch, and medical personnel later said she would likely not have survived the cold night, the sheriff said.
When the child was pulled out, Collette said her cry was more of an "I'm hungry and cold" cry than an "I'm hurt" sound.
"It was a big sigh of relief. I think the baby felt the relief too," Collette, who is a father, told KTLA. “An infant’s cry isn’t very loud, but she made herself heard. She is a fighter."
The little girl was believed to be 24 to 36 hours old at the time, according to sheriff's Special Victims Bureau Detective Jennifer Valenzuela, who assisted with the deputies' response.
The baby was believed to have been born in a hospital, and doctors said she may have been left in the ground for several hours, the detective said.
"She had a strong will to live," Valenzuela said. "It's basically a miracle."
The baby was in stable condition at a local hospital, where the deputies visited her Friday night.
"We were all a little surprised how well the baby was doing when we saw her," Valenzuela said.
The infant has been placed in the custody of the county's Department of Children and Family Services.
Investigators still have not located the girl's parents, nor did they know their identities. They stressed Monday that the girl could have been turned over -- no questions asked -- via the county's Safe Surrender program.
"The message we always want to get out: there is a better choice," county Supervisor Don Knabe said at the news conference.
Knabe said 16 babies had been safely surrendered in the county so far in 2015, and 140 since 2001.
"We've had 140 courageous mothers that have done the right thing," Knabe said. "No name, no shame, no blame."
Valenzuela said many tips were coming in to investigators, and Knabe and McDonnell both asked for the public's help identifying the child's mother.
Anyone with information has been asked to call the department’s Special Victims Bureau at 877-710-5273. Anonymous tipsters may contact Crime Stoppers by calling 800-222-8477, texting the letters TIPLA plus a tip to 274637, or at lacrimestoppers.org.
Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent was asked to call the county Department of Children and Family Services' parent recruitment line, 888-811-1121.