A mother is facing charges of attempted murder and reckless endangerment of a child after allegedly abandoning her baby in a trash can outside a Dorchester business shortly after giving birth on Friday.
Marie Merisier, 33, appeared in court on Monday afternoon on the charges, where a not guilty plea was entered on her behalf. Bail was set at $100,000 cash, and she was ordered to have no contact with the child or any witnesses.
Prosecutors said she went to the home of a 73-year-old man she knew on Dorchester Avenue in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood on Friday for the purpose of cooking or cleaning for the man.
The man said he noticed Merisier was visibly pregnant and asked for a pair of scissors. The man said he didn't have any, and she went into the bathroom in the apartment for approximately one hour.
The man said he heard noises from the bathroom, and at some point, he heard a baby crying. When the woman came out of the bathroom, she was carrying a brown leather bag. The man said he heard crying coming from inside the bag she was carrying.
The man said he asked Merisier if she needed an ambulance. She allegedly declined, and when she left, the man called 911.
A short time later, Silvana Sanchez, a woman who works in the area, walked by a trash barrel outside Pat's Pizza, about 200 feet from the man's apartment. She heard a baby crying from inside the barrel.
Sanchez said the sound "didn't seem right." She noticed an EMS vehicle parked nearby and flagged them down. The emergency medical technicians found a newborn male baby wrapped in a cloth inside two knotted plastic grocery bags with the placenta.
Both the newborn and Merisier were taken to local hospitals.
Sanchez said the incident left her upset.
"I thought it was, like, puppies, because it just sounded fake," she said of her initial reaction.
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins praised Sanchez, the man who called 911, and first responders for their actions.
“I want to offer my deepest thanks to the two individuals who sought immediate help for this baby at the first sign of crisis and to the first responders who rushed into action to assist and protect the child," Rollins said in a statement Monday night. "It is because of all of these swift actions that this beautiful newborn is alive and now hopefully able to thrive.”
Rollins said she was able to briefly visit the baby, who is in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, in the hospital on Saturday, and she was so happy to see "nurses pampering, spoiling, and singing to, feeding and generally pouring love and affection into this beautiful child."
Droplets of blood were found in the hallway outside the man's apartment, and prosecutors say video recovered from the area outside Pat's Pizza showed Merisier in front of the business reaching into her leather bag and putting a plastic bag into the trash barrel. When questioned by detectives at a rooming house in Milton, Merisier initially denied doing it, but then admitted that it was her.
“She said the baby wasn’t crying so she thought it was dead, and she didn’t have any stuff for the baby anyway” said Audrey Mark, assistant Suffolk District Attorney.
Merisier’s attorney says she was desperate, has no family here, and she has no money because she was laid off from her restaurant job at the start of the pandemic.
"This case involved an impossible, complicated set of questions about mental health, prepartum and postpartum, hormonal, emotional and mental health crises,” said defense attorney Cristina Rodrigues.
Prosecutors asked that Merisier be held on $100,000 cash bail. Her defense attorney, however, argued that she should be released on her own recognizance with GPS and under house arrest, given mental health questions raised in the police report.
"This is a person who is willing to show up for court," the attorney said. "There is nothing in the allegations suggesting an attempt or effort to flee."
Her lawyer said that Merisier has no ability to pay, so setting bail at $100,000 essentially amounted to holding her without bail. She said Merisier was a cook and server at a local Haitian restaurant before losing her job due to the pandemic.
She is scheduled to return to Dorchester District Court on March 29 for a probable cause hearing.
"Although some may not be able to imagine the amount of pain, fear, disassociation, or mental anguish one must be experiencing to engage in the behavior we alleged she did, it is very real," Rollins said of Merisier.
Rollins said it's important that parents know there are resources available to them if they are feeling overwhelmed or scared.
"We need to make sure that parents of newborns know they have options if they feel hopeless, depressed, an inability to bond, or are having thoughts of harm to themselves or the child," she said. "Nobody should ever suffer in silence, but no harm should ever come to any child either.”
Since 2004, the Safe Haven Act of Massachusetts has allowed a parent to legally surrender newborn infants up to seven days old at any hospital, police station, or open and staffed fire station without fear of facing criminal prosecution.
"This situation did not have to happen," Rollins said.
Additionally, Rollins said, services are always available to help new, and all, parents: The Parental Stress Line is staffed 24/7 in all languages at 1-800-632-8188, and the National Safe Haven Alliance has a 24/7 crisis line at 888-510-BABY.
Witnesses of any crime should call 911 in an emergency. Anyone who believes that a child in Massachusetts may be the victim of abuse or neglect can also call the Department of Children and Families’ Child at Risk Hotline at 1-800-792-5200.