Mother arrested nearly 4 years after abandoned baby found alive in plastic bag

ByMeredith Deliso ABCNews logo
Saturday, May 20, 2023

Nearly four years after an abandoned newborn was found alive in a plastic bag in Georgia, the child's mother has been arrested and charged with attempt to commit murder, authorities announced Friday.

The baby girl was found in good condition in a wooded area in Forsyth County on the night of June 6, 2019, authorities said. A local family told "Good Morning America" at the time they had heard crying and called 911 after finding the newborn in a plastic bag.

The baby, temporarily named India, was likely born within hours of being found, authorities said. Her umbilical cord was still attached.

The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office released remarkable body camera footage of first responders recovering the baby from the scene in the weeks following the discovery as they attempted to identify her.

The Forsyth County Major Crimes Unit has been "tirelessly working" on the "Baby India" case ever since, and on Thursday morning, deputies made an arrest, the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office said in a press release.

"Four years ago, I said in this room, and I told you, we will bring this person to justice," Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman told reporters Friday. "Little did I know it was going to take four years."

Freeman said investigators have devoted "thousands of hours" to the case, and a breakthrough came approximately 10 months ago when they were able to identify the child's father through "advanced DNA investigative practice." There is currently no evidence to suggest that the child's father knew of the pregnancy or abandonment, the sheriff said.

DNA evidence further confirmed 40-year-old Karima Jiwani, of southeast Forsyth County, to be the child's biological mother, according to Freeman.

Jiwani faces charges including criminal attempt to commit murder, cruelty to children in the first degree, aggravated assault and reckless abandonment, Freeman said. She is scheduled to make her first court appearance on Saturday remotely from the Forsyth County Jail, where she is being held without bond, officials said.

Based on interviews with family and medical professionals, Jiwani reportedly had a "history of hidden and concealed pregnancies and surprise births," and while pregnant with India "went to extremes to conceal this pregnancy," Freeman said. Investigators have not found any prior criminal acts regarding Jiwani, he said.

India was likely born in a car, and Jiwani allegedly drove the newborn for a "significant period of time" before discarding her, Freeman said. There was no attempt to leave the newborn with a "safe haven" such as a fire station or hospital, which is legal within 30 days of the birth in the state, he noted.

"This child was tied up in a plastic bag and thrown into the woods like a bag of trash. I can't understand that," Freeman said. "It literally is one of the saddest things I have ever seen."

The sheriff wouldn't discuss motive, due to the ongoing investigation. The case will be brought to a grand jury, he said.

Freeman said he would not discuss India, besides to say she's "happy and healthy."

"Baby India is now prospering," he said.

People were "waiting in line" to adopt India following her miraculous recovery, Tom Rawlings, then-director of Georgia's Division of Family and Children Service, told "Good Morning America" at the time.

"In child protective services we deal with a lot of tragedy, of course, but it's great to have a miracle," Rawlings said of baby India's survival. "And this truly is a miracle."

Rawlings was not able to disclose too much about where the baby was due to confidentiality reasons.

The first deputy to the scene recounted finding the baby in an interview with "Good Morning America."

"I wanted to give her comfort," Forsyth Sheriff's Deputy Terry Roper said in the weeks after the discovery. "A little bit later I realized it was the first time she had felt love, and I felt honored to be able to give her that."

Roper was present for Thursday's arrest, Freeman said.

There were additional children in Jiwani's home at the time of her arrest, ranging from "school age to near adult," Freeman said. The sheriff's office has requested that the state's Division of Family and Children Services evaluate the situation and put a safety plan in place, he said.

The night India was found, two sisters heard the baby's cries and went to investigate with their parents, after initially thinking it might have been a cat.

"It sounded like a baby, but you never would think that it's a baby," Kayla Ragatz told "Good Morning America" at the time.

When they found the baby in the plastic bag, her sister, Kyler Ragatz, said she "started bawling" due to the emotional discovery.

"I was angry, scared, sad," she added.

Freeman thanked the family's efforts in finding the baby during Friday's press briefing.

"I call it divine intervention -- and I truly believe that still today," he said. "If you look at everything that had to happen for this little girl to survive."

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