NORTH LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Authorities said Friday that the story of a newborn boy who survived being thrown out of a moving car was made up by the infant’s panic-stricken mother.
The 8-pound, 2-ounce boy, who was believed to be less than an hour old and whose umbilical cord was still attached when he came into the custody of authorities on Thursday, was in good condition at a hospital in Fort Lauderdale.
Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne said at a news conference Friday afternoon that the boy was “absolutely perfect.” Nurses at the hospital have nicknamed him “Johny” after the doctor who treated him, Johny Tryzmel.
Jenne said the baby was taken to a local sheriff’s office Thursday by a woman who said she saw it being tossed from a moving car, wrapped in plastic. In fact, “the situation is not as horrible as we thought,” he said. “The baby was not ever thrown out of the car.”
Bizarre tale fabricated on spur of the moment
Jenne said the Good Samaritan, the woman in the car and the baby’s mother were one and the same — Patricia Pokriots, 38, a barmaid for a non-profit fraternal organization.
Pokriots was arrested in 2002 on an aggravated battery charge, accused of hitting another woman with a pool cue. The disposition of that charge was not immediately known.
Pokriots was undergoing a mental competency hearing, Jenne said, adding that there was no indication that drugs were involved. It was unlikely that she would be charged in this case, he said, because the only law that she appeared to have violated was filing a false police report.
Although requests to adopt Johny have flooded into the sheriff’s office and to local television stations, Johny is not available for adoption, Jenne said, adding that “legal steps must be taken for this to happen.”
A hearing must first be held to terminate Pokriots’ parental rights. That is almost certain to happen because Pokriots told investigators she did not want to keep the baby, fearing she could harm him.
Pokriots also has a 10-year-old child, who will be taken from the home, Jenne said.
Baby father’s unidentified
Jenne said Pokriotz gave birth to Johny in the bathroom of her own mother’s home, where she lives. She refused to identify the father.
Pokriots told investigators that she did not know she was pregnant because of an illness. She said she kept the child’s delivery a secret “because of embarrassment,” Jenne told reporters.
In a panic, she began driving around, hoping to abandon the boy at a firehouse, when she passed a white car. “The mother came across two people arguing and decided to build a story around this,” Jenne said.
On the spot, she decided to turn her son in to authorities and claim that the couple she spotted had tossed him from the car, he said.
After taking a wrong turn, Pokriotz presented the baby at a Broward County sheriff’s substation instead of a firehouse, claiming to have rescued him. She told the story of the quarreling couple, having “decided to lie about what would happen,” Jenne said.
Asked about supporting reports from witnesses, Jenne said those people had simply seen the uninvolved couple in the white sedan, he said.
Florida law would have protected mother
Jenne visited Johny in the hospital and said Pokriots’ initial story had raised troubling questions. “What have we come to as a society and a community?” he asked.
But in this case, that question had a welcome answer, Jenne said: “The one great thing that comes out of this is there is a great love for this child, this Johny.”
Jenne stressed that the incident need not have happened, noting that Florida had a “safe harbor law” allowing a mother leave her baby at any medical facility or fire station within three days, no questions asked.
“As horrific and wrong as [her] story is, if she had just taken baby Johny to the fire station [and] left him there, we couldn’t have asked any questions,” he said.
By MSNBC.com’s Alex Johnson