Yale Daily News

On Monday, Perry Dennis — a maintenance worker and resident of the Presidential Gardens apartment complex — found an infant in a dumpster outside of his Newhallville building.

The infant, an eight-month-old baby girl, was rushed to Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital at 1 Park St. with severe burn injuries to both of her hands. New Haven Police Department Captain Anthony Duff said that officers arrived at the scene of 573 Dixwell Ave. around 2 p.m. and requested emergency services to attend to the situation. 

Officers transported Andiana Velez, a 24-year-old woman who abandoned the child in the dumpster, to the New Haven Superior Court yesterday.

“Criminal charges are pending against a 24-year-old Hamden woman for the abandonment of an eight-month-old infant in a dumpster,” Duff wrote in a Tuesday press release. “The woman, who is not the child’s mother, is being detained at New Haven Police headquarters.”

NHPD arrested Velez yesterday. She had been babysitting the child earlier that day, as first reported by the Courant. According to Tuesday’s NHPD press release, New Haven police have contacted the infant’s mother, whom Velez allegedly attacked. In a copy of the police report acquired by Fox61, the mother says Velez “tried killing her with a knife” and subsequently drove away with the infant. Investigators at the NHPD and the state Department of Children and Families, or DCF, have yet to determine the cause of the burn injuries on the infant’s hands. 

Velez was taken to the Superior Court yesterday for an arraignment hearing and faces charges of risk of injury to a child, second-degree assault and first-degree reckless endangerment. Bail was originally set at $250,000.

As first reported by the Register, prosecutor Katie Morgan called on Judge Eugene Calistro to increase Velez’s bond to $500,000 at Tuesday’s arraignment hearing, citing her prior convictions, such as threatening and reckless endangerment. She has not been released from custody and her next court date is a pre-trial conference set for Oct. 30.

Calistro agreed; he increased Velez’s bond and barred Velez from contacting the child or her mother.

The New Haven Register reported that Perry Dennis was throwing out his trash when he discovered the baby.

“I walked maybe a good five beats or so and then I heard a baby crying,” Dennis told the Register. “I thought it was a cat at first.”

After opening the dumpster to the sound of wailing, Dennis discovered that what he believed to be a cat was, instead, a baby. Dennis said he immediately alerted the authorities and ran to his apartment to grab a blanket to warm the shivering child.

Ward 21 Alder Steve Winter, whose ward includes the Presidential Gardens apartment complex, first heard about the incident when a reporter at the Register contacted him.

“It’s shocking and unconscionable that anyone can do this to a child … I’m glad that the child is alive and in stable condition,” Winter told the News. “Nothing like this has happened during my time as alder.”

Presidential Gardens declined to comment on the incident.

In a statement to the News, DCF Commissioner Vanessa Dorantes wrote that the department is collaborating closely with law enforcement to protect the child’s safety and well-being after what she described as a “disturbing incident.”

As of Wednesday morning, the child remained under the DCF’s custody and at the hospital.

Dorantes expressed gratitude for the citizens who “sprung into action in this situation” and reiterated that there are community services available for those who are concerned about the care of a child.

Dorantes also emphasized that in cases where caregivers feel unable to care for a child older than 30 days, and are therefore not covered by the provisions of the Safe Haven law, they should never abandon them in the kind of “dangerous situation reported here,” but instead contact the DCF, bring the child to an emergency department or contact law enforcement.

To make a child abuse or neglect report to Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families, call 1-800-842-2288.

Talat Aman | talat.aman@yale.edu

Maria Fernada Pacheco | maria.pacheco@yale.edu