When Timothy Ferris decided to take the trash out a few hours early at work, the last thing he expected to find in the dumpster was a 7-month-old baby. He discovered an infant he described as “red faced and crying”, lying inside a closed dumpster near the corner of Park st. and Laketon Ave. in Muskegon, Michigan.
According to Ferris, as soon as he stepped outside of the Muskegon Rescue Mission, where he worked, he could hear a crying child. Curious and concerned, he followed the sound, which led him directly to the dumpster. He opened the lid and discovered a wailing baby lying inside. The child, Ferris later told police, was red in the face from the heat.
When he picked the baby up, Ferris says a man popped out from behind the dumpster and said, “That’s my son!”. The two men grappled for a few moments over the child, but Feris said he finally let go for fear of harming the baby. The man then ran off holding the child, and Ferris ran back inside the Mission, hoping to find help.
When Ferris stepped back outside the Mission with three co-workers, he says he say a woman pull up to the curb in a “beat up” looking old car. The man ran up the vehicle with the baby in hand. Ferris says that as the man was running towards the vehicle, the man was holding the baby by an arm and a leg. He jumped inside the car and the woman drove away. Ferris additionally noted that the woman seemed unconcerned about what was happening.
Ferris and his coworkers photographed the car as it drove off, capturing the license plate, and then called the police. Officers took the information from Ferris and his coworkers, and began a search for the father and the baby. They were found later that night by officers, who arrested the father and left the baby in the care of the mother. However, CPS was notified.
According to Muskegon Police Capt. Shawn Bride, the baby’s father, Andrew Johnson Wingett, told investigators that he was looking for toys when he needed his hands and had to put the baby down. However, in order to avoid putting the baby down on the ground, he chose to put him in the dumpster instead, but it was only for a short time.
Wingett has been arraigned on a single count of second degree child abuse, which is a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison for a first time offense. Under Michigan law, second degree child abuse can be defined as “knowingly or intentionally committing an act that is likely to cause serious physical or mental harm to the child, even if the child is not actually harmed.” In this case the child was not harmed, but the prosecutor believes that in leaving a child unattended in a dumpster, there was the potential for serious harm.
We don’t currently know the details of what Wingett was doing at the time that he set his infant son down in a dumpster, or why he believed it was a better option than the ground. But we do know that, until we have more information, it is best to reserve judgement. Under constitutional law, Wingett is considered to be innocent until proven guilty.