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Baby born in dorm found in plastic bag ‘gasping for breath’

A booking mug of Sarah Tatum.

A booking mug of Sarah Tatum.

A University of Arizona sophomore who gave birth to a boy Monday placed the child in a plastic bag at the foot of her bed in a dormitory room on campus, according to court documents.

The baby, who was full term and weighed 7 pounds, was “gasping for breath” when police untied the bag, according to campus police.

The infant is recovering at University Medical Center but more details on the child’s condition were not available Thursday afternoon.

The student, Sarah Elizabeth Tatum, 19, has been charged with attempted first-degree murder and felony child abuse.

Details of the investigation are contained in an interim complaint filed in Pima County Justice Court on Thursday.

The documents show that when police officers opened the bag, the baby was breathing but appeared to be suffering from hypoxia, or lack of oxygen.

A physician estimated the infant had been inside the bag for “at least two hours,” the report states.

The baby was discovered by UA police when they went to Arizona-Sonora dorm about 5:40 p.m. Monday in response to a call for a “medical assist” there.

They found the baby and what the infant’s mother said were her “dirty clothes” that she placed inside the bag with the baby.

Tatum told police she “miscarried.”

She “confirmed the baby was in a bag she placed on the floor at the foot of her bed,” according to the report.

“The interview (with Tatum) revealed Tatum hid her pregnancy and did not seek prenatal care,” police said.

The interim complaint states:

“She said she delivered the baby in the shower and later placed it in the bag.”

Tatum was released on her own recognizance after an initial appearance Wednesday night by video from the Pima County Jail.

The Pima County Attorney’s Office asked that she be held on $250,000 bond because “she is a risk to re-offend because of mental health issues,” citing the nature of the offense and that she is facing mandatory prison time if convicted.

Under the conditions of her release, Tatum cannot have contact with the baby, she must show proof of a mental health evaluation at her next court date on March 17, and she must surrender her passport within 48 hours of her release.

She also cannot leave the jurisdiction of the court without permission of Pima County Superior Court.

An attempt to reach her court-appointed attorney, Laura Udall, on Thursday afternoon was not successful.

Arizona has a Safe Haven law that allows a mother to abandon a newborn anonymously, with no legal penalties.

The baby can be surrendered at a fire station or hospital, to an emergency medical technician in uniform, to an adoption agency or at a church bearing the Safe Haven logo.

Liz Barker Alvarez, a spokeswoman for the Department of Economic Security, said Thursday afternoon that Child Protective Services is investigating the case.

“The baby remains hospitalized. CPS has an open joint investigation with UAPD on the case. We will continue to investigate and will take whatever actions are necessary in order to ensure the baby’s safety,” she said.

The state child welfare agency could ask a judge here to place the baby in the custody of the state as a “dependent child.”

Tatum is not permitted on the UA campus. She has been placed on interim suspension from the university, according to a UA dean.

Tatum is a finance major from Scottsdale, according to a UA Web site.

Sarah Tatum's photo appeared on a UA Residence Hall Association Web site. The Web site has since been taken down.

Sarah Tatum's photo appeared on a UA Residence Hall Association Web site. The Web site has since been taken down.

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