Miscarriage or crime? Fetus found on plane

March 31, 2008 1:11:39 PM PDT
Houston authorities are interviewing a "juvenile" who might be the mother of a dead fetus found Sunday in an airplane bathroom trash can to determine whether a crime was committed. John Cannon, a spokesman for the Houston Police Department, confirmed to ABC News that authorities had identified and were talking to a specific, unnamed "juvenile" who may have been involved in the disposing of the fetus.

"A juvenile has been located for questioning," Cannon said.

A spokesman for the FBI said that an examination by the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office will help determine whether charges might be filed.

"We are still trying to determine whether this was a private medical emergency or if this was a crime," Shauna Dunlap, a spokesman for the FBI's Houston field office, told ABC News. "It's leaning toward a private medical investigation."

The investigation began around 5:15 p.m. Sunday, when a member of an airplane cleaning crew aboard a Continental Airlines plane made the grisly find on board. The plane, Flight 433, had just completed a nonstop flight to Houston's George Bush International airport, from New York's LaGuardia Airport .

The medical examiner will determine the age of the fetus to see whether the unborn child was viable. Dunlap discounted some early news reports that suggested the baby was delivered alive before being disposed of.

"We're trying to identify the mother," Dunlap said. Any type of crime or potential crime aboard a plane in the air triggers FBI involvement.

While the identity of the mother is unknown, Cannon confirmed that investigators were interviewing a "juvenile" who might be able to provide additional information about what happened on the flight.

If necessary, investigators may rely on the flight's passenger list to interview potential eyewitnesses.

A spokeswoman for Continental Airlines declined to comment, citing passenger privacy and referring questions to local authorities.

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