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Charges filed against mother of abandoned baby in Federal Way

The following report was provided by the King County Prosecutor's Office:

On Oct. 10, the King County Prosecutor's Office filed a charge of abandonment of a dependent person in the third degree against Sarah Christianson, 22, who is accused of leaving her newborn baby at the doorstep of a church in Federal Way on Sept. 28.

The newborn was wrapped in a towel and spent almost six hours outside in the night before a church member discovered the baby in the morning. According to court documents, the baby girl was slightly hypothermic, but recovered quickly at a local hospital and was otherwise healthy.

Abandonment of a dependent person in the third degree is filed when a parent abandons a child and thereby creates an imminent and substantial risk that the child will suffer substantial bodily harm. The charge is a gross misdemeanor that can carry a sentence of up to one year in jail. However, prosecutors will not be asking for any jail time if Christianson is convicted.

Instead, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said his office would request a sentence that includes treatment and community supervision. "I can appreciate that the decision to abandon the newborn was the product of confusion, fear and panic," Satterberg said, "but it also put the child's life in great danger."

"This misdemeanor charge will ensure that the defendant recognizes the recklessness of her actions and is also able to get the supervision, treatment and support she needs in her life," he added.

Satterberg said the Washington state Legislature passed a law in 2002 that allows someone to leave a newborn anonymously with qualified personnel within 72 hours of birth, such as a hospital or fire station where immediate medical attention is available. Under those circumstances, no criminal charges would be filed. The law, however, does not allow the abandonment of a newborn at locations where qualified personnel are not available to immediately care for the infant.

Christianson remains out of custody on her personal recognizance. Arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 22 at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

For more information about state law and other resources, visit http://www.safeplacefornewbornswa.org/

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