Father in baby-in-toilet case says mom knew she was pregnant

Jessica Blackham (source: WYFF)
Jessica Blackham (source: WYFF)

GREENVILLE, SC (AP) - The man who claims he's the father of a baby left in toilet after birth has told national media that the mother knew she was pregnant -- even though she told a judge she was unaware of her pregnancy.

The man says he dated  24-year-old Jessica Blackham and doubts her story about why she left the baby in the bathroom just after childbirth last Friday.

In court Wednesday -- Blackham told a judge she didn't know she was pregnant -- and doesn't remember giving birth. The man claiming he dated her says that's not true because she posted information on Facebook about morning sickness.

A custodian who helped rescue a baby abandoned in a toilet at a South Carolina arena says he hopes to meet the infant some day.

Marco Calle said Wednesday he was worried the baby left after a Friday night circus performance wouldn't survive.

Calle was part of a cleaning crew that found the baby with its feet in the water and head resting on the toilet rim at Greenville's Bi-Lo Center. Calle lifted the baby while his boss called 911. He says there was evidence a woman gave birth in the stall.

The woman accused of abandoning the baby, 24-year-old Jessica Blackham, has been charged with abuse and neglect. Her mother told a judge that her daughter didn't know she was pregnant and can't remember giving birth. The 6-pound boy is hospitalized in good condition.

Blackham's mother told a judge Wednesday her daughter has had amnesia since going into a bathroom at the Bi-Lo Center in downtown Greenville. Her bond was set at $30,000.

Police say Blackham gave birth to the 6-pound boy and left him in the cold water. She is charged with child abuse and neglect.

Her mother says Blackham felt ill during a circus performance Friday night and went to the bathroom. She says Blackham can't remember what happened and later went to a hospital for bleeding.

Greenville Police Chief Terri Wilfong says Blackham is from Easley and is a married mother of a 4-year-old. Blackham was arrested on Tuesday night after she showed up at the Greenville police station accompanied by family members.

Officials said they could not immediately explain what Blackham may have been thinking when she gave birth Friday night at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville while attending a circus performance.

For days, the identity of the mother was a mystery. Investigators scoured security video tapes from the arena looking for the person who left the baby.

The baby was taken to the hospital Friday night in critical condition, suffering from hypothermia, which an expert said is one of the biggest risks for babies born away from medical care. The condition could lead to infection or breathing problems if not treated quickly.

"When a baby is moist and has exposure of its skin to the air, it will lose heat very rapidly," said Dr. Christopher Robinson, a fetal and maternal medicine professor at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

An untreated new mother could suffer bleeding from unseen cuts in the birth canal. Her mental health is also a concern. "Here we probably have a frightened mother who may have poor coping skills and may have a lack of social support, and she's at real risk for depression at this point," Robinson said. "Obviously this is a person who is in a very difficult social situation and may be very frightened and may not totally be aware of what has happened at the time."

Roger Newton, president and general manager of the 13-year-old Bi-Lo Center in downtown Greenville, said he'd never encountered such an incident in his 33 years of managing arenas from Ottawa, Canada, to Miami, Florida.

The manager said he'd had to deal with a death during his career, but never a birth. He said the cleaning crew deserved high praise for their handling of the matter and quickly calling authorities.

"They did everything they should have, and we're very proud of them," he said.

Residents in this conservative region said they were shocked by the boy's discovery and concerned about both mother and child.

"It's unfortunate that anyone has to go that far, and wouldn't know what to do," said Lorna Sexton, 54, of nearby Taylors. "It broke my heart to hear it. Let's hope the girl, the woman, is able to get some help."

Sexton said she'd read about the case in the paper, and that people had been talking about it at the coffee shop where she works.

Authorities say the infant is still hospitalized in good condition. The Department of Social Services is in charge of the baby. Authorities say they've fielded numerous adoption offers.

If convicted on all charges, she could face up to 30 years in prison.

Related story:

Copyright 2011 WIS. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.