By Christine L. Pratt
Wooster Daily-Record staff writer
Wooster Township - A baby found Monday night on the doorstep of an East Messner Road home has local law enforcement and media racing in the wake of the recent disappearance of a pregnant North Canton area woman who works in Hudson.
But, Sue Redman thinks the mother of the infant she found in a basket on her porch is more likely someone from her past than 26-year-old Lake Township resident Jessie Davis, who is nine months pregnant and was last seen a week ago.
Police say they suspect foul play in the disappearance of Davis, who went missing from her home near North Canton last week, according to the Stark County Sheriff's Office.
Stark County Chief Deputy Rick Perez said at a press conference Tuesday investigators interviewed Davis' coworkers at Allstate Insurance in Hudson, but said they have no suspects.
Lt. James Cole of the Canton Police Department said June 19 that Officer Bobby Cutts Jr., reportedly the father of Davis' baby, is on paid administrative leave, but police don't say he is a suspect.
Redman was a school nurse for Wooster City Schools for 18 years. She is a past board member of the Viola Startzman Free Clinic, where she now is president of the free clinic network.
She was at the clinic Monday afternoon before meeting her husband, Don, for dinner in Wooster.
When they pulled into their driveway at 1733 E. Messner Road at 7:40 p.m., Redman said, she saw a basket sitting at the doorstep. After parking, she opened the back door, expecting to find the basket full of food or produce.
"Much to my amazement, there was a sleeping, beautiful infant in the basket," she said. "I was shocked beyond belief. I had to keep asking my husband if I was dreaming."
She brought the newborn in from outside, where the temperature was 88 degrees, and called 9-1-1.
At the request of a Wayne County Sheriff's deputy, she disrobed the infant, which had been wrapped in a blanket and clad in a printed sleeper.
A nurse, Redman recognized signs the infant was only hours old. Her umbilical cord had been tied with a black rubber band and newborn stool was in her diaper.
Also in the clean woven basket, Redman said, there was a bottle of formula, a can of formula, three diapers and a clean change of clothes, she said.
"This isn't happening," Redman said she kept telling herself, adding while her home - unlike a hospital or a police department -- is not a legal place to leave a newborn, "I was flattered to think someone thought I could take care of their baby."
While in the schools and at the clinic, she said, she's developed "close relationships with a lot of young girls."
Redman attended to the baby, but after the infant choked several times on thick mucus obstructing her airway, she said, a Wooster Township Fire Department squad was called.
"I felt it needed attention I couldn't give it," she said.
The infant was taken to Wooster Community Hospital, where the child was found to be in good health, said Wayne County Sheriff Thomas G. Maurer, who handed over custody of the child to Wayne County Children Services. A hearing on custody of the child is scheduled for today in Wayne County Juvenile Court.
Like Redman, Maurer said he doesn't believe the abandoned newborn is the child of Davis, but "we're not counting it out."
"We are taking every precaution and trying to cover every base and working together (with the Stark County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating Davis' disappearance)," Maurer said.
Wayne County Juvenile Court Judge Raymond Leisy authorized medical personnel to take a DNA sample from the child, which Maurer on Tuesday afternoon delivered to the Stark County Sheriff's Office, which would then have the ability to order a genetic comparison with Davis' DNA.
Wayne County authorities continue to investigate, and are looking for the mother of the child, said Maurer. "We understand the mom may have some issues, but we want the identity of her known. There are ways of safeguarding [newborn] children if they're not wanted."
He's hopeful the child's mother will identify herself so she can help with authorities in securing a legitimate adoption or other legal resolution, Maurer said.
Anyone with information on the mother's possible identity should call the Sheriff's Office detective bureau at 330-287-5760.
"I would encourage them to call me if I know them," said Redman, who said she will help the mother navigate through the legal system.
"Obviously the mother knows she's unable to care for a child, and (abandoning the infant on Redman's step) was a very mature decision on her part," said Redman, a mother of three and grandmother of six. "Hopefully this child can be adopted by a loving family and be raised in a nurturing home."
Redman said she hopes to receive updates on the baby's welfare from Maurer.
"I'm grateful I came home when I did and there were not animals around," she said. "It's more than coincidence, I'm afraid."
For more updates, please see the Web site of our sister paper, The Daily Record, at www.the-daily-record.com